By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
The bitter battle over West Virginia University’s Tier 3 rights came to an end Thursday with the announcement of a broad partnership between the school and IMG College.
The program is designed to bring new national and corporate support and brand recognition to the school’s athletic program and is effective with this coming academic year.
The 12-year agreement is guaranteed to pay to WVU more than $80 million over 12 years, plus revenue-sharing opportunities over the length of the partnership, includes management of local game broadcasts and coaches’ shows for radio and television; publications such as media guides and schedules; digital platforms including social media and web sites; corporate sponsorships; at-event promotions and game-day hospitality; stadium and venue signage including scoreboards and ribbon boards; and advertising in university-owned and leased athletic facilities.
Local radio baron John Raese had fought a no-holds-barred fight to retain radio production rights for his company, West Virginia Radio Corp., and has gone to court in an effort to keep this merger from occurring.
He did force the process to be redone, but he could not change the results of the bidding.
WVU retains some existing sponsorships with corporate entities such as athletic apparel and footwear, health care, financial services and pouring rights.
“It was time for WVU Athletics to grow our multimedia and sponsorship sales, especially with our recent move to the Big 12 Conference,” said director of athletics Oliver Luck in a noontime release. “With the resources, services and proven track record that IMG College brings, WVU now has the opportunity to expand its revenue base by engaging new national sponsors while building our athletic and university brand. I’m extremely pleased with this move.”
“West Virginia athletics under the direction of Oliver Luck has done a great job building its corporate partner program, and we’re thrilled to add our resources to expand on these efforts,” said Ben Sutton, president of IMG College, in the same release. “West Virginia is one of last major schools to handle multimedia and sponsorship sales in house. The university’s decision to entrust IMG to grow its sponsor and revenue base while building the school brand continues to validate IMG’s collegiate services and burgeoning national marketing platform.”
WVU joins several other Big 12 schools which have partnerships with IMG College, including Baylor, Kansas, TCU and Texas. IMG currently represents more than 90 universities nationwide as well as the NCAA and its 88 championships.
Under the contract, IMG will identify a dedicated team to be based in Morgantown.
Also, radio broadcasts will move to IMG Audio, the largest independent radio network in the U.S. IMG will partner with West Virginia Media Holdings – run by Bray Carey, a competitor to Raese — to develop television inventory, including coaches shows and other ancillary TV programming to be determined.
IMG College describes itself as “the nation’s leading collegiate multimedia, marketing and licensing/brand management company, representing more than 200 of the nation’s top collegiate properties, including the NCAA and its 89 championships, NCAA football, leading conferences and many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the country.
Headquartered in Winston Salem, N.C., IMG College connects brands with the largest and most demographically attractive fan base in sports through partnership opportunities in multimedia rights, sponsorship sales, licensing, marketing, ticketing, seating, fundraising, premium events and hospitality, stadium and arena development, and consulting.
IMG College produces nearly 31,000 hours of radio programming on the largest sports network in the country, manages nearly 5,000 hours of local television programming, is the leading publisher of college sports publications and is the largest manager of university athletic websites.
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