CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University Board of Governors Chairman Drew Payne said Thursday he never asked WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck or anyone else to award a lucrative media rights contract that Payne could benefit from financially.
Payne said he never meddled in a WVU panel's decision to sign a tentative agreement with Winston Salem, N.C.-based IMG College, which is expected to partner with West Virginia Media Holdings. Payne serves on West Virginia Media's board of directors and formerly held a major stake in the Charleston-based media firm.
"I didn't care who got the contract," Payne told the Gazette during an interview at his downtown Charleston office Thursday afternoon. "I wasn't involved in any way, shape or form."
Payne said Luck led the push to bid out the university's third-tier media rights -- now handled by Mountaineer Sports Network, which was operated by WVU.
"Oliver handled this. He thought we should bid it out," Payne said. "Oliver drove this."
Luck headed a six-member committee that reviewed bids for the media rights contract and recommended IMG. The university and IMG have signed a non-binding agreement, and the deal is expected to be finalized later this month.
Payne said he has talked to Luck about the contract, but nobody else.
"I purposefully stayed away from this," Payne said. "You can ask anyone on that committee if I called them or tried to pressure them. I have not."
Payne said WVU would make $5 million a year under the new contract with IMG.
"The winner is WVU," he said. "They're getting $5 million more every year. And I did something wrong? I don't believe so."
The third-tier contract -- valued at more than $110 million over 12 years -- covers radio broadcast rights, and television rights for some non-conference football and basketball games. The contract also covers television coverage of non-revenue sports, coaches' shows, signage, online content, game-day magazine print rights and seatback sales.
On Thursday, Payne confirmed that IMG was in talks with West Virginia Media as a potential partner on the deal with WVU. Payne said chances were "good" that IMG and West Virginia Media would reach an agreement.
"But as of this [Thursday] morning, they didn't have it yet," Payne said.
Payne said he wasn't privy to the negotiations, which are being handled by West Virginia Media President Bray Cary.
"I don't ask," Payne said. "I'm not updated. It's none of my business."