MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Business Court Judge Thomas Evans denied a motion by the West Virginia University Board of Governors and athletics director Oliver Luck to impose a gag order on West Virginia Radio Corporation, the Dominion Post and the MetroNews network regarding the ongoing third-tier media rights lawsuit.
WVU’s motion sought to prohibit the specific media outlets from “posting or publishing any editorial comment, open letters, or any other opinion pieces.” The motion also sought a gag order on Greer Industries executives John Raese and Bob Gwynne, as well as any other employee of the media companies owned by Greer.
Raese, a former U.S. Senate candidate and chairman of Greer Industries, has authored eight letters sent to the president of the university and/or to members of the Board of Governors.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Evans stated (with underlining emphasis included from the judge’s order):
“It may be said that his (Raese’s) purpose was solely or primarily to bring attention of the WVU president and the public what is perceived to be problems and shortcomings of the Defendants in the administration of the affairs of WVU, a public entity supported (in part at least) by Taxpayer funds. WVU BOG’s argues that publishing the letters in the Dominion Post show that Mr. Raese is attempting to prejudice potential jurors, but the court does not agree with this conclusion. It is just as likely Mr. Raese is attempting simply to inform the public about matters of public interest taking place in WVU’s Athletic department.”
WVU had complained, along with Luck, about what they characterized as personal attacks on the athletics director. Evans wrote in his decision:
“It is said that these letters amount to a personal character attack on Oliver Luck, and to an extent, the court agrees with this position. However, it must be said that the “attacks” largely relate to alleged incompetence and what appears to be an alleged lack of loyalty to WVU (by supposedly seeking employment elsewhere).”
Luck interviewed last fall for the vacant University of Texas athletics director’s job, which subsequently went to Arizona State University’s Steve Patterson.
WVU’s media rights were awarded to North Carolina-based IMG College in the summer of 2013 after a second round of bidding recommended by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who found “significant errors and sloppiness” in the first bidding process overseen by Luck.
In denying the university’s gag order request, Evans pointed out Raese’s letters to the WVU administration likely prompted Morrisey’s investigation that uncovered the flawed bid process.
In late July, Evans denied West Virginia Radio’s motion to invalidate the university’s 12-year, $86.5 million contract with IMG. Documents show WVU had recently been earning between $5 million and $6 million annually from managing its rights in-house.
WVRC’s wide-ranging lawsuit, filed in June 2013, names 10 defendants in all, including then-WVU president Jim Clements, Luck, WVU Board of Governors chairman Drew Payne and WV Media president Bray Cary.