Winning the old-fashioned way

Just in time for West Virginia’s opening game against William & Mary, a Monongalia Circuit Court ruling this week means West Virginia University sporting events will continue to be broadcast — just not by Mountaineer Sports Network, which has long held the media rights to broadcast the university’s games in conjunction with West Virginia Radio.

The radio station, which is owned by brothers John and David Raese, sued to block a 12-year, $86.5-million deal between West Virginia University and IMG College after the North Carolina-based broadcaster came out the winner in a competitive bid proposal last year. A subsequent review of the bid by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey showed a number of problems with WVU’s proposal, enough in fact, for the AG’s office to recommend that the university re-bid the contract.

Key problems Morrisey identified were that two of the original three evaluation committee members had not indicated their choice at the time IMG had been selected, and two Board of Governors members failed to disclose their interests in West Virginia Media Holdings and to recuse themselves from meetings about the matter. Still, Morrisey saw nothing to object to IMG nor West Virginia Media from participating in any subsequent bids; Raese was demanding the school reset the clock to June, re-open the application process and bar both from bidding again.

In his own investigation — an investigation requested by Raese — Morrisey found no indication of “intentional” wrongdoing, indeed one of his own findings was that WVU was not obligated to put its media rights out to bid in the first place. And given the discrepancy in revenue projections between IMG and West Virginia Radio — a Freedom of Information request by the Charleston Daily Mail revealed West Virginia Radio projected an agreement that would have the university getting $5.7 million over 10 years, far, far less than the $86.5 million IMG promised WVU for a 12-year contract — it might well be that a number of officials at WVU thought a better deal could be had by not automatically renewing the university’s option with MSN.

As the bid results show, they appear to have been right.

John Raese was once asked how he came by his wealth and he replied that he got it “the old-fashioned way, I inherited it,” he said. That appears to be how he viewed his media relationship with WVU; to be sure, before Circuit Judge Thomas Evans, Raese’s lawyer all but conceded the deal with IMG but sought for the radio station some cut of the action. If IMG ultimately prevails, it will have won the better old-fashioned way — by earning it.


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