The Times West Virginian

April 18, 2013

‘Significant errors and sloppiness’ can’t be accepted in WVU bid process

Times West Virginian

— Everybody has probably heard all about the controversy going on in Morgantown involving West Virginia University’s multimedia sports rights and how they were handled.

It’s been a hot topic for months, and the state’s Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was finally called in to settle what had become a rather heated dispute over the university’s efforts to collect bids for its multi-media rights to certain athletic events.

What Morrisey’s report unveiled was that WVU conducted its efforts with “significant errors and sloppiness.”

Significant errors and sloppiness. Is this the kind of report West Virginians want to hear about their state university? We don’t think so.

WVU’s broadcast rights for years have been handled by the university-operated Mountaineer Sports Network. The network works closely with the John Raese-owned West Virginia Radio Corp.

Raese — whose company bid on the contract — had accused WVU of violating contracting rules and sought to have the agreement bid again.

The Big 12 Conference owns the media rights to WVU’s regionally and nationally broadcast basketball and football games.

The negotiations in question involved televising games that are not included with the conference and NCAA contracts. WVU signed a tentative licensing agreement in January with Winston-Salem, N.C.-based IMG College. It also would have given IMG College the rights to manage and market publishing related to WVU sports, as well as radio game play-by-play and coaches’ shows.

These are mult-million dollar deals for universities.

WVU Board of Governors Chairman Andrew Payne and board member David Alvarez should have recused themselves from participating in bid reviews for the contract, Morrisey said. The university suspended talks with IMG after reports that Payne and Alvarez had ties to a company hoping to subcontract with IMG — West Virginia Media Holdings.

Another major problem pointed out by the attorney general was that two members of the committee put together to pick the company that would be awarded the contract did not vote — associate athletic director Mike Parsons and athletic business director David Szul.

While the attorney general felt that the four people who did vote — athletic director Oliver Luck, Robert Griffith, Graham Peace and Steve Kite — gave the process validity, he thought it best that it be set aside.

Morrisey’s investigation, while pointing out significant problems, found no “intent of intentional wrongdoing.”

Fortunately, WVU is committed to a rebidding process.

“It is clear from this report that mistakes were made in the procurement process,” WVU President Jim Clements said, “and we will take proactive steps to fix them. Starting over is simply the right thing to do.”

The university has received a second chance to do things right. Let’s see that they are done in the proper manner this time. WVU should never deal with even the perception of a conflict in interest in its attempt to maximize profit in the athletic department.