MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Judge Thomas Evans, after denying numerous motions to dismiss a lawsuit filed against WVU officials by West Virginia Radio Corp., is considering the radio company’s request for an injunction on the third-tier multimedia rights contract between the school and IMG College.
The hearing recessed for lunch and was scheduled to reconvene Monday afternoon.
WVRC, which has carried Mountaineers sports broadcasts for some seven decades, wants Evans to stop WVU from implementing a 12-year contract with IMG College worth $86.5 million. The network claims that contract, signed in June, was achieved through fraudulent bidding.
WVU’s attorneys are arguing that an injunction at this point—five days before the football season opener—would leave the school without a media rights partner and would cause undo harm to IMG and new radio affiliates who within the past month agreed to broadcast this season’s games.
Evans denied motions to dismiss from 10 defendants named in the civil suit—including WVU president Jim Clements, athletics director Oliver Luck, the WVU Board of Governors, board chairman Drew Payne, board member Dave Alvarez, and West Virginia Media Holdings president Bray Cary.
WVRC’s suit charges Luck with “improperly, incompetently, and unlawfully managing the media rights RFP process.” WVRC claims the university subsequently tailored the second media rights bidding “to render WV Media’s partner, IMG College, the only qualified bidder, thereby transforming the RFP process into a sham.”
Luck was barred from overseeing the second round of third-tier rights bidding after West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey confirmed Luck shared confidential information with Payne, a stakeholder in WV Media. Morrisey’s report also questioned Luck’s autonomous decision last October to add three members to the evaluation team when the other original panelists—deputy athletics director Mike Parsons and associate AD for business operations Mike Szul—didn’t give immediate approval to the IMG College/West Virginia Media bid.
Evans, the Jackson County circuit judge, replaced Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot on the case. WVRC asked that Gaujot be disqualified based on a 26-year-old disagreement the judge had with Greer Industries attorney Robert Gwynne. (Greer is the parent company of WVRC, which also operates MetroNews.) State Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Benjamin subsequently replaced Gaujot with Evans.