Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 11, 2013

WVU deal with IMG good for the athletic department

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — It appears that the Mountaineer Sports Network is going bye-bye.

With word coming that West Virginia University has signed a 12-year $80 million deal with IMG commencing this school year, the decades-old MSN theme song will not resonate through the airwaves at the beginning of WVU football and basketball games.

West Virginia was one of the few remaining major colleges that managed its broadcast properties and marketing in-house. IMG, formerly ISP, is a North Carolina based company that handles broadcasts and marketing activies for more than 90 schools across the country including Virginia Tech and Marshall.

For the past quarter century or so MSN radio productions have been delivered via West Virginia Radio Corporation, the Morgantown-based company owned by John Raese. That task along with others will now fall to IMG.

This move further highlights the high stakes involved in college sports today, especially football. While MSN broadcasts are certainly as good as IMG productions, and I’ve heard many different IMG schools, the important thing here is dollars. To be specific, 80 million of them.

Under this agreement WVU will get roughly $6.7 million a year from IMG. That is money that the school will not have to share with the Big 12 Conference. WVU, once it receives a full share of Big 12 media disbursements in two years, will stand to make between $22 million and $25 million a year. Put it together and you’re looking at somewhere between $28 million and $31 million a year going into the WVU bank account.

There are those who are worried about the deficit in the WVU athletic department. But it should be pointed out that the reason for that deficit was mainly the $20 million payment to the Big East for the school leaving the conference.

There are those who believe that the best thing for WVU sports would have been to stay put and be a leader in what is now the American Athletic Conference. By point of comparison, the money from IMG alone would more than double what WVU would get from media rights if it were in the AAC. Furthermore, not IMG, nor any other media firm would have been willing to pay that amount of money if WVU were playing Memphis, Central Florida and SMU instead of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas State.

Deficits will dwindle, facility upgrades will take place and in relatively short time the Mountaineers’ athletic programs will benefit from the increased revenues.  More money could possibly lead to more sports.

I am sure my good friend Garnett Edwards, who was an All-American hurdler at WVU, would love to see men’s track and field make a return. The Big 12 is a great conference for softball and WVU has never had a team. Men’s golf is already returning and what about men’s gymnastics? And for all us band lovers, maybe ‘The Pride of West Virginia’ will be able to travel to a conference game or two each season.

To the viewing or listening fan, there will be no major difference in the broadcasts. I am sure Tony Caridi and Dwight Wallace will continue to call the action. There may be different pre- and post-game shows, but other than not hearing the MSN theme song, most people will not notice the changes.

The landscape of college athletics is constantly changing and in order to keep from being swept into irrelevance, schools must be proactive and stand ready to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.  After years of relative complacency, West Virginia University is now being proactive and the dividends will pay off down the road.

— Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sportswriter and alumnus of West Virginia University. Contact him at bredd@gmail.com.