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WVU, IMG College agree to Tier 3 partnership

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University and IMG College have agreed to a lucrative partnership for the athletic department's Tier 3 multimedia rights, separate college sports sources have confirmed to the Charleston Daily Mail today.

The deal was first reported by Sports Business Daily, but a source told the Daily Mail WVU expects to make around $5 million more per year in the new arrangement than it was making with the current Mountaineer Sports Network structure.

WVU was one of the few remaining schools to independently manage its Tier 3 rights.

Athletic Director Oliver Luck declined to comment, maintaining his desire to remain silent until the deal is complete. That could be soon, though. A source said WVU has sent IMG College a formal letter stating its intent to award the company the Tier 3 contract and that WVU will make about $9 million per year. Incentives should push the overall value of the contract well above $110 million.

A source said WVU's deal with IMG College would begin July 1 and last for 12 years, which is said to be a standard length of time because it's the length of the Big 12 Conference's grant-of-rights agreement. Under that separate deal, if a school leaves the Big 12 before the 13-year deal enacted this past season expires, it leaves behind all of its Tier 1 and Tier 2 media rights and revenue for the remainder of the deal.

IMG College is regarded as an industry leader in the multimedia rights business and works with more than 80 schools, including Texas, Kansas, Baylor and Texas Christian University in the Big 12. WVU's move to IMG College would leave Michigan State as the country's only major university without a Tier 3 partner, though Michigan State outsourced its multimedia rights before and has since brought them back under its own control.

In addition to granting WVU greater access to more national companies and the revenue boost involved with that, one person who works in the business said IMG College is also respected for its willingness to work with schools and allow them to manage and personalize many details. That would include personnel for broadcasts of games and television or radio programs.

"The fairest way to represent it is as a partnership between the two involved," the source said. "It's not one of those things where they're going to dictate everything or push something (the Mountaineers) don't want. If there's something they don't want to do, they're going to sit down and talk it out."

WVU's Tier 3 rights include all the broadcast and marketing inventory that doesn't belong to the Big 12. The conference's grant-of-rights gives the Big 12 the Tier 1 and Tier 2 rights to all nationally and regionally televised football and men's basketball games.

The biggest parts of the Tier 3 rights are all radio broadcast rights and the remaining football and men's basketball games not claimed by the first two tiers. That usually means only one non-conference home football game and a small number of home non-conference men's basketball games.

It also includes the remaining television inventory of all other WVU sports, coaches' shows, sport-specific magazine shows, signage and commercial rights at sporting event sites and online content.  Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.


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