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Industry leaders aim to secure WVU media rights

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Some of the biggest names in the multimedia rights business have lined up to take a look at West Virginia University and maybe take a shot at securing the athletic department's Tier 3 properties.

The Charleston Daily Mail has learned IMG College, Learfield Sports, Comcast/NBC, Nelligan Sports Marketing, CBS Collegiate Sports Properties, Legend Sales & Marketing, The Hub Companies, XOS Digital, West Virginia Radio Corporation and West Virginia Media Holdings are involved early in the process.

It's an important list with recognizable and successful names as WVU seeks to join virtually the rest of the world of intercollegiate athletics. WVU and Michigan State are the only major colleges that handle their own Tier 3 rights.

IMG and Learfield are industry leaders with the experience and the ability to handle WVU's needs. IMG works with 80 colleges, including Big 12 schools Texas, Kansas, Baylor and TCU. Learfield works with 50 schools including Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Iowa State in the Big 12, plus the Big Ten, Western Athletic and Missouri Valley conferences.

Nelligan, CBS and the Comcast/NBC pairing are smaller, though knowledgeable, while Legends, The Hub and XOS are diverse and count a number of professional and collegiate clients.

The two state companies have experience working with WVU. West Virginia Radio has broadcast WVU games for decades. West Virginia Media televised the Gold-Blue Game in April and handles shows for football Coach Dana Holgorsen and men's basketball Coach Bob Huggins.

The Mountaineers posted a Request For Proposals (RFP) June 8 for their sponsorship and media rights, including marketing, signage, event marketing, ticketing, print, digital and audio and video content.

They conducted a pre-proposal conference call Friday in which they fielded questions about the RFP and the process. Questions, due two days earlier, were addressed and then sent forward as part of an addendum to the RFP.

The list of interested companies is not final and could expand or shrink before July 2, the deadline for bidders to submit pre-qualification statements. One company asked how to notify WVU of the problems it has with the pre-qualification statements.

WVU's RFP specifically states the selected firm will "create and develop your own distribution plan for broadcast, distribution, and promotion of the radio and television programming, corporate sponsorships, signage, Internet advertising, game program sales, and related promotions and broadcasts currently being provided by and or coordinated with WVU."

The companies will now decide if they want to move forward in the process, or if it's too much of an undertaking. Upon receiving the pre-qualification statements, WVU will evaluate the submissions and then notify the applicants by July 17 if they are qualified and welcome to proceed.

WVU is maintaining some secrecy about how it will evaluate offers. The university acknowledged it would use a weighted system to make its final decision, meaning it will give more value to certain elements in a proposal. WVU declined to reveal how it will weight the criteria listed in the RFP.

In addition to representatives from the companies, the call featured WVU's Tim Bostonia, Associate Director of the Department of Purchasing, Contracts, and Payment Services, and Athletic Director Oliver Luck, plus Rockbridge Sports group, the Virginia-based media rights company Luck contracted to assist with creating the RFP.

The Rockbridge owners are former managers at CBS Collegiate Sports Properties and worked on college sponsorship and media rights deals with Virginia, Maryland, Utah and LSU.

Luck and Bostonia declined to comment, citing the mutual desire of all parties involved to maintain privacy in the process - and confidentiality and non-disclosure were topics on the call.

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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