WVU sports: Televised spring football game in doubt
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's annual spring football game is Saturday and it's possible that a $10 ticket is the only way fans will be able to see it.
WVU and West Virginia Media Holdings are nearing the reality the Gold-Blue Game won't be televised. West Virginia Media televised the game the last two years, but the university's self-enforced review of the Request For Proposal (RFP) process to bid out its multimedia rights has kept the two sides from negotiating a contract to televise Saturday's game.
As part of the review, which is looking into WVU's proposed partnership with IMG College and West Virginia Media for the athletic department's Tier 3 properties, none of the parties are allowed to communicate.
"It's possible, certainly, but I would say at this point it is undetermined," Deputy Director of Athletics Mike Parsons said.
A potential break arrived late Sunday night, though. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who WVU invited to join the review last month, announced he'd have a news conference this morning to unveil his findings. If he clears WVU of any impropriety, WVU and West Virginia Media would be able to talk again.
West Virginia Media owns eight television stations in the Charleston/Huntington, Morgantown/Clarksburg, Beckley/Bluefield and Wheeling/Steubenville, Ohio markets. President Bray Cary said his company paid WVU $20,500 for the game in 2011 and 2012.
Cary said his company could hold on through the end of the week.
"The (advertising) sales would be limited because of the time," he said. "We could make the decision probably up until Friday. I think it would be hard to pull it together on Saturday. I suppose the short answer is anything is possible."
Coach Dana Holgorsen found positives in not having the game televised. It wouldn't be available for opponents who might use it to get an idea about a WVU team with so many new players and coaches. He also hoped it would increase attendance, not only for his team, but for the WVU Children's Hospital. A portion of the game's proceeds goes to the hospital, and WVU has donated more than $680,000 to the Children's Hospital the last 28 years.
"The spring game is about fans coming out and getting a glimpse at what the 2013 team could look like and enjoy a simulated, festive game atmosphere," he said. "Everyone misses football this time of year. The spring game gives the real fans something to come out and watch."
Cary said the topic of televising the game for the third straight season had been raised, though before the parties were prohibited from interacting Feb. 19.
"I think the sad part is if you look at the great universities around the country in athletics, or the so-called elite, I think West Virginia has certainly been a part of it for the last 10 or so years knocking on the door and doing things like televising the spring game," Cary said. "There are a lot of things that are part of the image and this is just one of those things. You hate to see it move backwards in a case like this."
The opportunity is instead swallowed up by the ongoing Tier 3 saga. Last May, WVU announced it would issue a RFP to outsource its multimedia rights, which is a collection of assets that includes a variety of marketing, advertising and broadcast opportunities. In January, WVU sent IMG College, which has more than 80 colleges as a client, a letter stating its intent to award the company the Tier 3 contract.
West Virginia Radio Corp. owner John Raese, whose company submitted a bid, questioned the integrity of the process. That triggered a built-in response by WVU to review the operation, which then built the wall between WVU and West Virginia Media.
Parsons said the spring game will still be available on Mountaineer Sports Network radio affiliates. He said MSN could stream the game online.
"We might not do anything," he said. "In the past, we've only televised it the last two years, plus one other time it was done nationally. It's not the norm that spring games are televised. It's just not a natural thing for television. Let's put it that way. The format is different. There's not a running clock. That sort of thing. We've done it the last two years to take advantage of the opportunity there."
The spring game is indeed a glorified scrimmage with loose rosters and a larger goal to make the most of the last of the 15 spring practices. Holgorsen said Thursday he only released a "very tentative" depth chart so the spring game program could have one. WVU is replacing six starters on offense and four on defense, plus the kicker, punter, top two kickoff returners and the main punt returner.
"It could change on Saturday morning, on Tuesday or for the spring game," he said.
To further characterize the inexact nature of the game, Holgorsen listed junior Paul Millard, redshirt freshman Ford Childress and freshman Chavas Rawlins as essentially co-starters at quarterback. They'll float around during the game.
"Not only do they switch, but the receivers rotate," Holgorsen said. "The linemen will also go back and forth. We keep the quarterback with a specific center and that changes every other practice. We will keep doing the same thing during camp.
"There will be a lot of moving parts during the spring game. I hope we win. Spring games are tough. You want it to look good for the fans that come. It's going to be a festive day and we want it to resemble football."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142 His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.