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WVU media contract with IMG College to net millions

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - West Virginia University will make a guaranteed $4.1 million in royalties during the first year of its new multimedia contract with IMG College, according to contract documents obtained by the Daily Mail.

North Carolina-based IMG will pay WVU at least $86.5 million through 2025 as part of the plan, and then an additional $105 million over the next decade should officials decide to renew the partnership.

WVU signed an agreement turning over much of its athletic department's multimedia rights to IMG College on July 11. The university was one of just a handful of NCAA institutions to retain these so-called Tier 3 rights, which include radio sports broadcasting and some televised football and basketball games, as well as a slew of other marketing and advertising outlets.

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck had been working on the plan -- which was idled for seven months after West Virginia Radio Corp. owner John Raese objected to how the university handled its bid process -- as a way to raise additional revenue for the school's athletic programs.

"It was time for WVU Athletics to grow our multimedia and sponsorship sales, especially with our recent move to the Big 12 Conference," Luck said last month.

Luck said the IMG partnership gave WVU "the opportunity to expand its revenue base by engaging new national sponsors while building our athletic and university brand. I'm extremely pleased with this move."

In announcing the deal last month, the university said it would make at least $80 million over the next 10 years under the deal. It would also benefit from additional revenue-sharing opportunities, officials said.

On Wednesday, in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request from the Daily Mail, the university turned over the full 113-page contract with IMG detailing specifics about the arrangement, which begins with the 2013-2014 sports cycle.

According to the contract, IMG will pay WVU a base guaranteed rights fee, along with additional funds earmarked for capital improvements, and ticket and football game suite stipends. The rights fee and other stipend payments will gradually increase over the life of the plan.

During the first year, IMG will pay a guaranteed rights fee of $4 million. That fee will increase to $7.3 million by the 2024-2025 sports season.

Including the additional capital improvement and stipend payments, WVU's annual guaranteed payout from IMG will increase from $4.1 million during the first year of the contract to nearly $8.3 million by the final year.

The university will also receive a $5 million signing bonus under the plan, $3 million of which will be paid by no later than June 16, 2014, with the rest to be paid by June 15, 2015.

WVU will also receive "performance bonuses" based on post-season athletic play. The university will receive $25,000 if its football team plays in a Bowl Championship Series (or its equivalent successor) bowl game.

If WVU wins a national football title, IMG will pay the university a $100,000 bonus.

WVU will also receive bonuses depending on how far the university's men's basketball team makes it in the annual NCAA tournament. WVU will net $10,000 if the team makes it to the Sweet 16, $15,000 for an Elite 8 run, or $25,000 if the team makes it to the title game.

Also, if WVU decides to renew its contract with IMG for an additional 10 years, it will receive an additional $5 million signing bonus and its annual guaranteed payments will continue to increase.

The new 10-year term would net the university an additional $105 million, according to the contract.

When announcing the deal, WVU officials said the contract also offers additional revenue sharing opportunities, though they did not specify the terms. 

According to the agreement, WVU will collect 30 percent of all gross cash revenues IMG would collect beyond a pre-determined threshold through its partnership with the university.

During the first two years of the arrangement, that threshold is set at $6 million, meaning the university will receive 30 percent of all revenue collected beyond that amount.

That threshold, however, increases incrementally over the contract, topping out at $15 million by the end of the first 12 years.

WVU's share of revenues would also increase to 40 percent if it renews the deal for an additional 10 years.

WVU could face penalties as well.

If the university is sanctioned by the NCAA, undergoes another conference change or suffers some form of "material adverse publicity" that affects IMG's ability to attract sponsorships or advertising, IMG could negotiate lower annual royalty payments, the contract said.

Radio broadcasts

The WVU contract with IMG lays out specific details for broadcasting WVU games via the radio.

These broadcasts, formerly produced by Raese's West Virginia Radio Corp., will now be handled by IMG Audio.

The Mountaineer Sports Network will now be referred to as the "Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG" or "MSN Radio from IMG," according to the contract.

IMG will be required to produce a 60-minute pre-game and 30-minute post-game show, though the contract said WVU would like the company to try to expand that to a two-hour pre-game and one-hour post-game show, if possible.

Men's basketball games will still have 30-minute pre and post-game shows.

A big question has been if IMG will continue to use current WVU play-by-play broadcaster Tony Caridi as part of their radio broadcasts. WVU indicated in bid documents that it would like to keep its prior broadcast teams intact.

An IMG source, who declined to be named, said the company has reached out to Caridi but had not received any feedback from him.

"We have made Tony an aggressive offer and have expressed our willingness to have further discussions that would result in him remaining the Voice of the Mountaineers," the source said. "We are waiting on his response."

In addition to being the play-by-play radio personality, Caridi is a manager at Pikewood Creative, an advertising arm under the West Virginia Radio Corp. corporate umbrella.

West Virginia Media

The WVU contract with IMG also lays out a specific relationship with Bray Cary's West Virginia Media Holdings corporation, which IMG will use to air at least one football game and four basketball games each year.

In addition to coaches shows and the annual spring football game, which the company already produces, the contract says West Virginia Media will produce pre-game shows and bowl specials throughout the year.

Also, West Virginia Media will produce new broadcast specials tied to National Signing Day, WVU's annual Sports Awards Banquet and an annual University Gala Fundraising Event, which the contract says will begin in the 2014-2015 sports year.

The contract also says West Virginia Media will begin providing other services at no cost to WVU.

Those include: increasing coverage of special events (such as the Coaches Caravan or WVU Classic Golf Tournament) on West Virginia Media-station newscasts; providing WVU with promotional time on the network's 5:30 statewide newscast; appearances by WVU coaches and university officials on Cary's weekly Decision Makers Sunday talk program; and providing on-air promotional and sales opportunities for WVU merchandise.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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