Fun to watch good ol' boys haggle over TV money
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - If you don't find amusing all the comings and goings with the business that is West Virginia's athletic department these days, well, you just don't have much of a sense of humor.
Really, pop a bowl of corn, sit down with your brew of choice and just consider it all.
Be it RFPs or BOGs or IMGs, it all comes around to my favorite acronym of all.
That would be the Good Ol' Boys, who when they aren't causing the problems are being outed for being at their root.
Of course, the bottom line is that very little of it really affects you, right? I mean, for the most part this is all bookkeeping. Where WVU's Tier 3 media rights are concerned, you're still going to switch on your radio or TV and hear or see what you want to hear or see.
OK, so maybe next year you don't park in the Blue Lot. Maybe it's the Dodge Blue Lot, as was suggested in a back-and-forth between the school and those bidding for the Tier 3 rights. Commercialization. It's not new.
Perhaps the athletic department becomes richer for it all. That's certainly the goal, isn't it? From a stability standpoint, that's a good thing. Maybe from a competitive standpoint, too. If you're a West Virginia fan, there's nothing wrong with that.
But the bottom line here is that it's all business. It's all bookkeeping. It's all a matter of who gets the money. And it's not you.
At least in part, it's the Good Ol' Boys. And isn't it just a bit amusing watching them haggle over it?
Take those Tier 3 rights, for example. The report by the state's attorney general Monday on the school's attempt to award a contract for those can pretty much be summed up thusly: WVU was apparently within its rights to just go out and award a contract without even bidding it. But when it decided not to - when it elected to solicit bids and do it that way - it botched it royally. So the AG suggests it be done again, and WVU agreed.
Where does the GOB fit into this? Well, that's the great part. Oliver Luck, the guy who was hired to run the athletic department like a business and bring it into the 21st century, for some reason felt compelled to share the proceeding with Drew Payne, the chairman of the university's Board of Governors. Sure, there were all sorts of confidentiality stipulations attached to the bidding process, but surely those don't apply to Payne, who even if he wasn't the chairman of the BOG is part of the GOB.
Oops. Turns out those confidentiality clauses do apply. And that's especially true when Payne - as well as David Alvarez, another dual BOG and GOB member - is financially linked to Bray Cary and his West Virginia Media group. Then again, it seems almost everyone involved here is linked to Cary and his company, which became a huge player in the Tier 3 media rights when it attached itself to IMG, the company that would have won - and still might win - the contract.
Of course, that's where it gets even better. The reason IMG didn't sail through the process is because of John Raese. If you don't know Raese as a former Republican candidate for senator, governor, etc., then maybe you'll know him as the owner of West Virginia Radio Corp.
That would be the company that has seemingly forever held the rights-free privilege to broadcast WVU football and basketball. No bidding. West Virginia Radio just got it.
Sweet deal, huh?
Well, it was until WVU decided to sell those Tier 3 rights, a highly visible (or at least audible) chunk of which is radio.
So now we've got Raese, about to lose a sweetheart radio deal with WVU, miffed because Cary, who has contracts to produce TV shows for WVU, is apparently going to keep (or even expand) his interests as a partner with IMG. So Raese has worked with another of his entities, the Dominion Post newspaper, as well as others, to see that justice is done.
It's a purely noble and magnanimous effort, right?
The fact is, many of the findings in the attorney general's report were exactly as Raese alleged. What makes it so funny, though, is that Raese can't help come off looking like the whistleblower who was ingrained as part of that Good Ol' Boy network right up until the time he was on the outside looking in.
What has been common knowledge among the GOB has now been surfacing in the Dominion Post, as well as the Gazette and other outlets.
Who flies free and where they sit in relation to Bob Huggins on basketball charters is now out. We know Huggins is a shareholder in Cary's West Virginia Media.
Also, there's the makeup of the panel that Luck appointed to evaluate the Tier 3 rights bids, which began as three people and then was bumped to six. That one of the members, deputy athletic director Mike Parsons, has made the in-house Mountaineer Sports Network his life's work certainly had little to do with that panel being expanded to make each vote less critical, right? And that Parsons and associate AD Mike Szul (essentially the expert on the finances of any move) didn't even vote when the IMG proposal was accepted isn't strange, either, is it?
Here's the thing, though, and why I can't help but be amused by it all. Eventually, those Tier 3 rights will be sold. Whether it's to IMG or someone else, WVU will profit greatly from it. If Payne is right, it will be to the tune of about $5 million a year. (Shhhh, he wasn't supposed to tell you that.)
Will Cary's people be involved? Who knows? Will Raese continue to profit? In some way, sure. The guy owns a station on pretty much every West Virginian's radio dial.
Will your experience with WVU athletics change? Not likely. You will still have broadcasts to hear and telecasts to see. Someone else will sell the signs you see at the stadium and a lot of the ads you hear or see electronically.
It's just all about who gets the money and how much. WVU will get more. A company like IMG will get more. And they would be getting more right about now had the school been more diligent and had the Good Ol' Boys not started their infighting.
The more things change, right?
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.