An article on the Daily Mail website yesterday disclosed that WVU has approached the West Virginia Attorney General's office with a request that the AG "provide outside legal advice and assistance" regarding the review of the bid process. The general timeline is fairly familiar to those who have been following the process and have been laid out pretty well in the Daily Mail article, but for our purposes, WVU was full steam ahead to award its third tier media rights deal to IMG sports for 12 years for the crisp, cool price of $110 million. The deal was to be a boon to an athletic department in need of cash as it transitions to the Big XII, as it would bring in an additional $5 million per year in revenue above the Mountaineers' in-house production.
Everything came to a grinding halt just before the bid was formally awarded to IMG, as John Raese, the owner of West Virginia Radio (who has been broadcasting WVU games and bid against IMG) called foul on the whole deal. According to the Daily Mail:
Raese's complaints centered mainly on an apparent pending partnership between IMG College and Bray Cary's West Virginia Media Holdings, which produces basketball and football coach talk shows distributed across the company's network of statewide television affiliates.
Raese said there was an "appearance of impropriety" because Drew Payne, chairman of WVU's Board of Governors, previously held a major stake in West Virginia Media Holdings and sits on the company's board of directors while still in possession of a smaller share of the company.
Okay. So Raese is mad that the bid got awarded to a firm that struck a deal with a competitor who just happens to have a minority stakeholder on the BOG. Said member of the BOG naturally denies having any input into the deal and claims Raese is butthurt because he lost out on a sweet contract. Got it.
Regardless of Raese's motives, I can see how Payne's ownership stake in West Virginia Media may create an issue. Hopefully Payne is true to his word that Oliver Luck handled everything and Payne actually did stay out of the process. If so, kudos to Payne for doing the right thing (though he needs to keep is trap shut and refrain from taking shots at Raese) and kudos to WVU for being transparent and asking an objective third party to give its blessing before it moves forward.
I'm not sure what to make of the fact that the "objective third party" is the WV Attorney General, but I suppose as an arm of the state, WVU is entitled to rely on the wise counsel of Mr. Morrisey, who ought to have the best interests of the entire state in mind. Hopefully the AG's involvement shows that WVU handled everything in a way that is above reproach and we can all move on with our lives and $5 million/year IMG deal. If not, it could be a huge black eye for a university that has seemed to do an exemplary job of moving forward in light of the Heather Bresch degree scandal just a few short years ago. I trust that Oliver Luck and Jim Clements have done the right thing.