In an era that measures collegiate athletic success by the number of zeroes after the dollar sign, West Virginia University’s athletic department believes that its use of the Mountaineer Sports Network (MSN) for its broadcasting should continue in part because it gives them something far beyond just a revenue source, deputy athletic director Mike Parsons told the school’s board of governors Friday.

Parsons is in charge of MSN, which puts 250 hours of live coverage on the air a year with between 35 and 50 radio stations for football and men’s basketball and which produces such shows as “Mountaineer Magazine” and “Mountaineer Jammin’.” It also produces 13 men’s basketball games a year with ESPN Regional and six women’s basketball and four soccer matches for PBS.

The BOG requested the athletic department to give it an informational overview of the operation of MSN as it looks into the possibility of bidding out its broadcasting and advertising rights to an outside company, as a number of other schools have done.

The BOG did not bring in any representatives from companies that might compete for the bid to see what their selling points are.

Parsons pointed out the way they use MSN, which originated in the 1960s and which uses West Virginia Broadcasting as a production partner, is “unique” and serves the purposes they want to be served.

“There are only a handful of BCS schools who do some form of what we do,” Parsons told the BOG. “We strive to be unique and not use the generic format used by so many schools (such as a coach sitting with a host and rehashing the past game).”

Rather than looking upon that as a sign that most other schools have moved in a different direction in order to raise more revenue, Parsons said there are many other factors that have to be considered.

“You can’t lose sight of quality,” Parsons said. “Not everything can be revenue driven. It’s important, yes. But so are the intangibles about how we project our image and our message. You can’t put a dollar figure on that part of it.

“It is completely biased coverage,” Parsons admitted, drawing a laugh from a knowing audience that included new board of governors member Oliver Luck, a former WVU quarterback.

Parsons, who spoke to the BOG along with athletic director Ed Pastilong, emphasized that keeping it in-house allows total control over what they present to the public.

“It gives us total control of our message,” Parsons said. “It’s about the branding and promotion of the university, its 17 athletic teams and its athletes.”

Parsons did not address how much control they would lose if they were to bid out the broadcasts and advertising sales.

According to Parsons, MSN gives some of the sports that normally would not get any exposure an outlet.

“On sports like women’s basketball and soccer, while others use trinkets and gimmicks to get exposure for their teams, we use MSN for statewide exposure,” Parsons said.

Members of the BOG probed general areas during the open meeting, then took Parsons and Pastilong into executive session and questioned them further for about a half an hour.

Parsons said that MSN will book about $7.5 million in revenue this year.

BOG member James W. Dailey, II, wanted to know how that compared with other schools, especially Nebraska, which has a comparable population.

“It is difficult to compare market by market as far media opportunities go,” Parsons said. “West Virginia is not a typical market. There are only 1.2 million people.”

To compare it to Florida, with its larger population and national championships, would be unfair.

Parsons said that Nebraska recently bid out its broadcasting and brings in approximately $8.6 million in revenue but that he did not know what its expenses are.

Another board member, Ellen S. Cappellanti, wanted to know how the revenue stream compares to other schools in the Big East.

Comparing the revenue generated here with the University of Connecticut, noting that UConn has about $8 million in revenue but “has a different population base and corporate base than we have in West Virginia.”

He also estimated that WVU does better than Pittsburgh in this area and significantly better than Cincinnati, which he said brings in $2.5 million in revenue but which competes in a professional market that includes major league baseball and NFL football. He said the MSN revenue would be similar to what Syracuse brings in.

The revenue from MSN helps the Mountaineers, who are self-sufficient and receive no funds from the university or state, to be one of only 19 Division I athletic departments that “consistently finishes in the black.”

Parsons continued to emphasis areas other than revenue flow, pointing out that the network aides in recruiting and how such messages as the school’s academics or its equity program are highlighted on broadcasts and on the special shows.

“It is about Mountaineers, for Mountaineers, by Mountaineers,” Parsons concluded.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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