CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marshall University's athletic director was taken aback by speculation that multimedia firm IMG College was overpaying West Virginia University on its impending deal in order to "squeeze" advertisers into subsidizing Thundering Herd programming.
Mike Hamrick said Monday he is further baffled by a characterization of MU as one of IMG's "underperforming" properties. He took issue with a MetroNews report Thursday on the subject.
"That is irresponsible reporting. That is wrong," Hamrick said. "Our number of clients that have worked with us in the last three years has significantly increased. We've been probably, from the first day IMG and us have been working together, one of their best properties."
The MetroNews report by Allan Taylor cited an anonymous "industry source" that said IMG College was not only bidding high to land the WVU contract, but willing to overpay with an eye toward subsidizing "underperforming" properties at the University of Pittsburgh and Marshall.
In turn, the source told MetroNews that could "squeeze" WVU sponsors into bundling ad packages to help out Pitt and MU.
"IMG could say, 'You want the Mountaineers? Then you're going to have to buy Marshall as well,' " the source was quoted as saying. "I promise you, IMG will hold some people hostage to get more money for Marshall."
That particular theory, and the quote, was repeated in Monday's Charleston Daily Mail, and it's being disputed by Marshall supporters, starting with Hamrick.
Two sources confirmed that two years ago, MU was the most profitable non-BCS school under the IMG umbrella. One source said the school even outperformed UCLA and Illinois at the time.
Essentially, the model is something like this: IMG and other like entities pay athletic departments a set fee in exchange for near-complete advertising, marketing and multimedia rights, and make their profit by exceeding those rights fees in marketing revenue.
IMG produces the radio network programming, including the weekly coaches' shows, and the coaches' television shows. Where possible, the company takes advantage of advertising opportunities on telecasts by Conference USA's partners, including CBS Sports and Comcast.