CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University's plans to acquire a free video scoreboard for the Coliseum several years ago ended up costing WVU $5 million, according to a lawsuit filed by West Virginia Radio Corp. last week.
In 2007, Panasonic offered to donate a scoreboard for the Coliseum, provided the WVU Foundation, the university's nonprofit fundraising arm, bought a scoreboard from the company for Milan Puskar Stadium. But the Foundation never raised the money for the football stadium, leaving the university's athletic department to pick up the $5 million tab, according to documents released as part of the lawsuit.
Former WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong and other athletic department higher-ups repeatedly raised questions about the scoreboards, saying the university never solicited bids for the second scoreboard and possibly violated WVU purchasing rules.
"My concern that WVU is not following proper purchasing procedures regarding the scoreboards continues," Pastilong wrote to his bosses in 2008. "This project has gone from one free board to buying two boards for $5 million, and now providing Panasonic the best advertising spot on the boards for free."
Pastilong's warnings "fell on deaf ears," according to West Virginia Radio's lawsuit. The scoreboards were purchased and installed in 2009.
The scoreboard details were included in a wide-ranging lawsuit filed against WVU and its Foundation by West Virginia Radio Corp., which is owned by Morgantown businessman John Raese. The company has asked a judge to block WVU from awarding a hotly contested media rights contract to competitors IMG College and West Virginia Media Holdings.
The lawsuit alleges that WVU officials have improperly awarded a number of contracts, including the scoreboard purchase.
"The scoreboard issue, is to me, very problematic," said Bob Gwynne, a Raese lawyer. "They've given out all this business without competitive bidding."
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also is reviewing WVU's scoreboard deal with Panasonic. He's expected to issue a report on the transaction later this summer.
WVU Foundation officials would not comment on the scoreboard allegations. "The WVU Foundation does not comment on pending litigation," said Bill Nevin, the organization's spokesman. "The matter of the scoreboards is being reviewed by the attorney general's office, and it would be inappropriate to comment until that review is complete."
In 2004, WVU started looking into replacing the video scoreboard at the Coliseum, which hosts men's and women's basketball games.
Three years later, the university hired a consulting firm, Ellerbe Becket, to help with plans to purchase a new scoreboard.