MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University announced “significant, ongoing improvements” to monitoring bid procedures after settling a two-year media rights lawsuit filed by West Virginia Radio Corp.
Financial terms of what WVU and media rights-holder IMG College paid in the settlement weren’t immediately available.
The agreement, sources said, was not tied to Mountaineers football and basketball radio broadcasts returning to WVRC’s statewide network.
WVRC, the parent company of MetroNews, alleged former athletics director Oliver Luck and WVU board of governors member Drew Payne rigged the bidding to assure IMG College was awarded the third-tier media rights contract. IMG won the initial bid in December 2012, which was negated after a state attorney general’s review cited missteps by Luck.
Among them were findings that Luck shared confidential information with Payne, an investor in West Virginia Media, which partnered with IMG on the winning media rights bid.
After a second round of bidding—from which Luck and members of the original evaluation committee were removed—IMG re-emerged as the rights winner in June 2013, agreeing to pay the school $86.5 million over a 12-year deal. That contract projects to earn WVU about $7.2 million annually, whereas it netted an estimated $6.2 million during the final year of managing its rights in-house.
In a joint statement, WVU president Gordon Gee said he was “very pleased to bring this matter to a final resolution.” Gee returned as interim president in December 2013, about four months after WVRC filed the lawsuit.
“WVRC is a significant contributor to our local community, West Virginia University and the state of West Virginia,” Gee said. “The university deeply appreciates and values the partnership it has had with WVRC for more than 70 years in bringing high-quality radio broadcasts to Mountaineer fans throughout West Virginia and surrounding states.”
WVRC chairman John Raese’s wide-ranging lawsuit also charged the WVU Foundation with improperly loaning West Virginia Media $7.75 million in 2002. More than $5 million of that loan eventually was forgiven in 2007. West Virginia Media president Bray Cary and several investors were members of the Foundation.
The university noted that WVRC’s allegations led the Foundation to modify its procedure for authorizing disbursements.
“I certainly appreciate the approach of Dr. Gee to these matters,” Raese said in the statement. “Our companies will look forward to supporting WVU’s and the Foundation’s mission of making WVU one of the leading institutions of higher education in the country.”
Settlement damages paid by the WVU Foundation and West Virginia Media, also named as defendants in the lawsuit, were not disclosed.
Luck was deposed following his departure last December for a post with the NCAA. Other depositions included Payne, former deputy athletics director Mike Parsons, senior athletics director Mike Szul, Luck’s predecessor Ed Pastilong, Panasonic sales rep Richard Ballard, WVRC president Dale Miller, Greer Industries executive vice president Bob Gwynne, and WVRC news anchor Hoppy Kercheval.
In June 2013, WVRC sued Luck, the Board of Governors, WVU Foundation, Inc., West Virginia Media, Payne, BOG member David Alvarez, Cary, Ballard, former WVU president Jim Clements and IMG College.
In August 2013, just weeks before the football season opener, Circuit Judge Thomas Evans allowed the IMG media contract to stand while noting WVRC’s allegations of university corruption were strong enough for the lawsuit to proceed.