CHARLESTON, W.Va. - The apparent winner of West Virginia University's so-called Tier 3 multimedia rights says it does not intend to pressure WVU advertisers into subsidizing Marshall University sports programming.
Last week, multiple sources confirmed to the Daily Mail that WVU and media firm IMG College had agreed to a 12-year contract that could carry an overall value of $110 million for the firm to manage its Tier 3 multimedia rights, which include radio sports broadcasting and some televised football and basketball games.
WVU was one of a few schools to still manage its Tier 3 broadcasting and marketing in-house, mainly through its Mountaineer Sports Network.
The new arrangement is designed to make WVU athletics more attractive to regional advertising. The university is expected to net an additional $5 million a year through the new contract.
IMG currently manages some multimedia rights for both Marshall University and University of Pittsburgh athletics.
When news of the agreement with WVU broke last week, speculation mounted over how IMG would incorporate WVU marketing with Marshall and University of Pittsburgh sports.
It has been known for some time that WVU's selling off of its Tier 3 rights will cause relationships with current advertisers to be reevaluated.
On Thursday, MetroNews - owned by West Virginia Radio Corp., which also had sought WVU's Tier 3 broadcasting rights - cited an anonymous source who said IMG was likely overpaying for WVU's rights in order to subsidize its underperforming Pitt and Marshall properties.
The source speculated that IMG would attempt to "squeeze" WVU sponsors into buying bundled advertising packages with Marshall sports.
"I promise you, IMG will hold some people hostage to get more money for Marshall," the MetroNews source said.
Representatives from WVU and IMG have declined to officially comment on the new deal, since it is still not finalized.
However, an IMG spokesman said the claim that the company was trying to shore up Marshall advertising was not true.
"IMG College has a longstanding and highly productive 15-year relationship with Marshall, which continues to perform well," said Andrew Giangola, vice president for strategic communications.
"Any assertion of any school subsidizing Marshall is completely incorrect and unfair to the school," Giangola said.