A dozen companies expressed interest in selling a scoreboard to WVU, and the consultant started to draw up a request for bids.
In May 2007, Panasonic sales representative Richard Ballard, who lives in Georgia, contacted WVU athletic officials and inquired about the scoreboard contract, according to an email included in last week's lawsuit.
Ballard's brother, Ralph, is a longtime friend and business partner of former WVU Board of Governors Chairman Drew Payne. Ralph Ballard and Payne also were shareholders in West Virginia Media. The WVU Foundation invested $7 million in West Virginia Media between 2002 and 2007, according to the lawsuit.
In August 2007, Payne gave a behind-the-scenes push to Panasonic's pitch, the lawsuit alleges.
Later that year, Panasonic offered to give WVU a free scoreboard for the Coliseum if the WVU Foundation bought a separate scoreboard for the football stadium, according to an email attached to the lawsuit.
In March 2008, the Foundation signed a binding agreement with Panasonic, promising to pay $5 million for the football stadium scoreboard. The Foundation never solicited bids. Meanwhile, WVU had quietly agreed to "utilize its resources" if the Foundation couldn't raise the $5 million, according to a Feb. 15, 2008, letter cited in the lawsuit.
Soon after, Pastilong and others started questioning what West Virginia Radio calls an "unlawful quid pro quo."
In April 2008, associate athletic director Russell Sharp wrote to WVU Finance Director Narvel Weese: "This project began with a free board and has turned into a $5 million expense. Ed [Pastilong] is still concerned that others did not have the same opportunities Panasonic did."
A month later, Pastilong sent a memo to Weese, saying, "Panasonic's name will be on state property, at the two most visible locations on campus, for free."
After the WVU Foundation failed to raise the $5 million, the university and its athletic department agreed to pay the Foundation for its scoreboard expense. The payments will continue through next year, according to the lawsuit.
Ralph and Richard Ballard could not be reached for comment. WVU has said it would not comment on West Virginia Radio's lawsuit.
The company alleges that WVU Foundation's agreement with Panasonic later led to purchases of Panasonic scoreboards and equipment for the men's basketball practice facility and the Milan Puskar Center.Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4869.