WVU Gets Around $9M/Year For Tier III Rights

Bob Levey

One of the last remaining schools to retain tier 3 broadcasting and advertising rights, West Virginia has reportedly reached a deal with IMG to farm out those rights for around $9 million per year.

One of the most lucrative aspects of WVU's membership in the Big XII is the university's ability to retain its tier 3 rights. While joining the conference required the Mountaineers to sign over a Grant of Rights to the Big XII, thereby relinquishing Tier I and II broadcast rights to its football and basketball games, the return on investment for that concession is a cool $20 million per year. Factor in revenue from the new playoff system and bowl games, and per-school annual revenue in the Big XII reaches into the upper-$20 million range. Currently (and obviously the entire collegiate sports landscape is in a state of flux with conference realignment and new television deals changing almost weekly), the Big XII boasts the highest per-school revenue stream in college sports. And that's without factoring in Tier III rights for every school (a luxury that the B1G and Pac-12 currently don't enjoy).

After SportsBusinessDaily.com broke the news that IMG had won the bid for the Mountaineers' rights, Allan Taylor of MetroNews and Mike Casazza of the Daily Mail have both done a fantastic job of describing what WVU's deal with IMG looks like, the numbers behind it, and what the deal means for the future of WVU athletics. In sum, the revenue generated by the Mountaineers' Tier III package---rights to one football and a few basketball TV broadcasts every year, all radio broadcast rights, coaches' shows, internet presence, and advertising---will jump from a reported $4 million to somewhere between $9 and $10 million when it's all said and done. That's a big hunk of change just for letting someone else do all the work.

My hunch, which I happen to share with most WVU media-types, is that we won't notice a whole lot of difference. Tony Caridi and company will likely still be around, the coaches shows may have a few more commercials, there may be a few more signs at football games, and heck, IMG may even retain the "MSN SportsNet" moniker for all we know. But where we will notice a difference? Definitely the revenue, especially while we wait for WVU to receive a full share of revenue from the Big XII.

Seeing as how the deal starts on July 1, 2013, that's an extra $5 - $6 million WVU will be notching each and every year in addition to everything we had been or will be getting. That type of money goes a long way, especially at a place like WVU that can use an extra bump for assistant coach salaries, facilities improvements, recruiting budgets, and the like.

The deal sounds even sweeter when compared to deals for other teams in the conference, and throughout the country for that matter. Now, the numbers cited by Sports Business Daily are from 2010 and don't include numbers for every school, and it's difficult to compare the deals because by definition they include different components, but even at $9 million per year, the Mountaineers rank right between Texas ($9.4 million) and Oklahoma ($7.5 million) on the Big XII pecking order. The deal is also right on par with Florida ($10 million), UConn ($8 million) and Kentucky ($8 million), all of whom boast elite basketball products to help bolster their value.

The bottom line is that this is a very sweet deal for WVU, and the extra revenue should help the Mountaineers play catch-up as they adjust to life in the Big XII by pacing them with the Texases and Oklahomas of the world financially, if not historically.

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