West Virginia judge denies motion to toss media rights contract between WVU, IMG College

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MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — A judge has denied a motion by West Virginia Radio Corp. to toss the media rights contract between West Virginia University and IMG College.

Media outlets report Monongalia County business court circuit judge Thomas Evans set aside a motion for summary judgment against WVU and others.

West Virginia Radio was seeking to void any contract entered by WVU and IMG. West Virginia Radio unsuccessfully bid on the contract, then filed a motion for summary judgment in February, claiming school officials violated state procurement laws.

Evans ruled that the code cited by the plaintiffs didn't apply to the $86.5 million, 12-year agreement reached last year.

According to state law, any purchases by a state agency in excess of $25,000 must go through a competitive bidding process. If violations occur, any subsequent contract can be rendered void.

Evans ruled Thursday that WVU wasn't buying anything with its multimedia rights contract, which was designed to generate money for the school.

The judge said it also was clear the statute didn't apply in this case because it specifies purchases must be awarded to the lowest responsible bidder, while a revenue-generating contract is ordinarily awarded to the highest responsible bidder. Revenue-generating contracts aren't mentioned in the statute, Evans said.

WVU's broadcasts were handled for more than 70 years by university-operated Mountaineer Sports Network, which works closely with West Virginia Radio.

The radio network's owner, John Raese, complained in February 2013 about WVU's first request for proposals and demanded that state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey investigate.

Raese later refused to cooperate with that investigation, citing WVU's refusal to turn over procurement documents. His attorney, Bob Gwynne, disparaged Morrisey's investigation in court, saying, "That was a lawyer reviewing his client's activities."

The investigation, however, was critical of WVU.

Morrisey's report cited "significant errors and sloppiness" in how the original deal was crafted. The attorney general also said he found "no evidence of intentional wrongdoing," based on the witnesses his team could interview and the documents they could review.

West Virginia Radio filed several objections with the procurement office over the first bid process and did not bid the second time around, arguing the proposal was so narrowly crafted that only Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based IMG could satisfy it.

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