The Times West Virginian

February 21, 2013

WVU Tier 3 talks put on hold

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s negotiations with IMG College over the school’s third-tier multimedia rights have been put on “procedural pause” after businessman John Raese, owner of West Virginia Radio Corp., which has held the radio rights for years and also was a part of the bidding process for the Tier 3 contract, questioned certain ethical elements of the deal.

According to sources, the suspension of negotiations over the rights is a standard, built-in response to a protest of the procedures. Raese had written and published a letter asking that WVU President Jim Clements investigate what he felt was conflicted process.

WVU’s Procurement, Contracting and Payment Services, which oversees bids and contracts, will look into numerous questions from Raese over the ethics involved in the negotiations.

Raese says there is an “appearance of impropriety” because Drew Payne, chairman of WVU’s Board of Governors, once was a major stake holder in West Virginia Media Holdings and currently sits on that company’s board of directors.

Payne has previously denied wrongdoing and says he not involved in negotiations or influencing the process.

West Virginia Media Holdings has had an increased stake in WVU media rights, including doing the men’s basketball and football coaches shows the past couple of years and the spring game. It is said to be pushing to be part of the broadcast network for game broadcasts, rights which have long belonged to Raese’s West Virginia Radio Corp.

Raese also questioned basketball coach Bob Huggins contract extension, which raised his salary to $3 million per year, and paid him a $25,000 bonus if he beat Kansas, while questioning the deal that gave last year’s spring game to West Virginia Media Holdings and the process for a new scoreboard in 2008 in Mountaineer Field.

Since Jan. 18, when WVU sent IMG College a letter stating its intent to award it the contract, the negotiations have been exclusive between the two parties.

IMG College is the industry leader in this area of media with more than 80 clients from whom it handles marketing, advertising and broadcasting, including radio rights for football and men’s basketball games.

Various sources have said WVU is in line to make more than $4 million more by selling off the control of the rights than it is currently making by doing its own.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.