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RFP outlines how WVU wants to maximize television, revenue opportunities

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University's calculated plan to commercialize signage at its athletic venues will indeed change the view for spectators beginning this fall.

Yet what spectators will be able to view could be ready to change, too.

The university revealed a revised Request For Proposals Tuesday afternoon as it again tries to outsource the athletic department's multimedia rights. One of the more informative parts of the 92-page, 34,000-plus word solicitation explains how WVU plans to make greater use of television than before.

WVU had scaled back in some television ventures in recent years and contracted West Virginia Media Holdings' West Virginia Illustrated to produce coaches' shows for men's basketball and football. The university now seeks to keep those two programs in place, possibly reintroduce some programming and debut a list of other ideas.

Among new programming ideas for television are signing day specials, preseason and postseason specials and awards banquets for unspecified sports. WVU produced a football signing day special on its athletic department website in February.

Beginning in the 2014-15 year of the multimedia rights contract a "University Gala Fundraising Event" will also be televised.

Football receives special treatment with a bowl special, but also the continuation of a regular pre-game show on game days, "Mountaineer GameTime," that's been running for the past two seasons. Additionally, a section of the RFP that details advertising, promotional and/or sponsorship components reserved for Coca-Cola, United National Bank, Nike and WVU Health Care mentions "Mountaineers 360," a magazine program that was dropped after the 2010, and football game replays that haven't been produced in many years.

However, neither is specifically required, like the gala and the pre-game show. WVU said in its announcement Tuesday that it will not comment on the new RFP.

The same section also references the weekly football press conference, one live football game and men's and women's basketball games. Those will be staples of the television part of the contract.

The contractor, which WVU hopes to select by Aug. 5 and notify by Aug. 23, can't touch men's basketball's conference games that remain property of the Big 12 or the non-conference games scheduled for or picked up by national networks. Anything else is available in the so-called Tier 3 rights and the RFP requires the contractor to televise at least six men's basketball games a season.

In the 2012-13 season, eight non-conference games were nationally televised, leaving WVU only five games that would have been eligible for a Tier 3 schedule. Given the challenging type of non-conference schedule Coach Bob Huggins prefers and the RFP's requirement, it's possible the Tier 3 schedule will include a quality matchup - not Gonzaga or Missouri, but not necessarily lower-tier non-conference opponents of which fans are not familiar.

Women's basketball's Big 12 games don't belong to the conference, unless one or more are selected for national television. The multimedia rights contract could create television slots for its games, as well as games and matches in the remaining sports that aren't scooped up by a national broadcast, which has happened to men's and women's soccer in the past.

Regardless of the sport or the format, every television program must be produced in high definition while WVU will maintain editorial control, including final approval of the on-air talent. The contractor will be responsible for all costs associated with production, including the on-air talent, videographers, editing, travel, transmission, distribution and equipment.

The contractor will have the exclusive right to sell all advertising on the programs, but is also responsible for copy, sales and collecting revenue.

WVU is aiming for increased exposure, too. The RFP states the contractor must make sure every program airs in the Charleston/Huntington, Oak Hill/Beckley/Bluefield, Clarksburg, Parkersburg and Wheeling/Steubenville markets, as well as markets serving West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle.

When allowed within the parameters of conference rules, the contractor is encouraged to try and distribute programs in "as many other eastern United States markets as possible, via cable systems and local over-the-air stations." That's a request a national firm, such as IMG College, which won the original contract, should be able to handle.

The contractor is empowered to extend itself by being granted the exclusive license to produce and televise the available programming "including via pay-per-view or via any other audio/visual media." That could allow for access to live streaming of events to locations outside the television markets.

While increasing its television potential and maintaining a strong radio presence with programming that will continue to include game broadcasts and coaches' shows, WVU is also devoting attention to its digital platforms.

That contains the athletic department's website, email newsletters, texting services, mobile and tablet device applications, social media tactics and e-commerce, that being a rather broad classification that includes apparel, merchandise, photography, DVDs, auctions and memorabilia, but also subscription and download fees for audio and video streaming.

All of those assets contain space where there will soon be new or added sponsorship and commercial presence. The RFP also offers a preview of what athletic facilities will look like in the near future by providing a list of places where WVU will allow what it calls "sponsorship recognition."

Among the many available locations beyond the traditional scoreboards and video boards or signage at the level of the playing surface: player statistics boards; press row ad panels; baseline table ad panels; seatbacks on a team's bench area; goal pads, backboard supports, the backboard top and the shot clock at a basketball court; cups, boxes, carriers and the menu boards at concession stands; seatback cup holders; trash cans; coaches' headsets; field goal nets; and sideline kicking nets.

The RFP also makes an ambiguous reference to a new scoreboard at Mountaineer Field for the 2013 season and current plans about a stadium renovation that will be complete in time for the 2015-16 contract year. There is no detail about either proposal.

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck and football Coach Dana Holgorsen declined to comment Wednesday and a university spokesperson said in an email "No one's at liberty to comment on the (RFP)."

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


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