Mike Casazza: Courtesies can be seen as slights in breakup
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Maybe it was just because this is the sort of story that gets a good run in the summer. Or maybe it was because it's the story that's getting a run this summer, this after similar exposure in the spring and winter.
Whatever the motivation, Wednesday started with a series of tips that West Virginia Radio Corp. was disassembling its empire at Milan Puskar Stadium. The radio booth on the second floor of the press box that the company built when the stadium opened was coming apart, piece by piece. All the expensive equipment and all the expensive accessories were being removed.
Given the conflict between West Virginia University and West Virginia Radio Corp. - and if you don't know about it, I'm sorry, but we don't have the time or the space here to review what has been an increasingly ugly and now litigious dispute - you could understand the interest in the action and the implications.
Was this the definitive line-in-the-sand, no-going-back moment some desired and others expected? Had West Virginia Radio Corp. decided enough was enough, that it was mad as hell and wasn't going to take it anymore? Or had WVU finally retaliated after a series of unanswered body blows and punches to the nose by evicting its newfound nemesis?
Honestly, this was appetizing and many raced toward conclusions. And then the finish line approached quickly and blandly.
Yes, WVU had asked West Virginia Radio Corp. to clear out that space, but it had asked the same of other occupants. A construction project is set to begin on the second floor and WVU thought it was wise to clear out certain areas and to protect that expensive equipment. This was a courtesy, not a clash.
The mind being what it is, struggling to move on so easily when it's so intrigued by a subject, it was hard to leave the topic. What if that had been an act of aggression, instigated by one or the other? Surely, that would be the end of a decades-old relationship.
And that revelation led to this question: What if we're near the end of that relationship, regardless of what did and did not happen Wednesday?
Let's be clear here: That day seems like it's coming and not merely because WVU is going to link up with a Tier 3 partner and not because animosity might encourage WVU to seek another provider of radio stations.
At present, there is no existing contract between WVU and West Virginia Radio Corp. It expired last month. And at present, West Virginia Radio Corp. is suing WVU's president and athletic director, its Foundation and its Board of Governors and six others. The company wants an injunction that would stall the Tier 3 process by excluding IMG College and West Virginia Media Holdings, the two that were going to be contracted originally.
What that delay could do is not only keep WVU from contracting a partner, but from having its familiar chain of radio stations. And many fear that might make it hard to hear the Mountaineers on the air in the fall.
There are fast ways out of this. WVU could seek to settle the suit, but that seems unlikely on many levels. The Mountaineers sure do like IMG and probably aren't comfortable with another company, but they would rather not give in to West Virginia Radio Corp. at this stage. The latter point would erase the possibility of renewing the contract with West Virginia Radio Corp., especially when one could argue part of the campaign waged by the company is for one last cash grab.
The lawsuit could also be dismissed, which would make this all moot, and we should remember there still is time to work with here.
It just seems like WVU has to start thinking about doing this on its own, if only just in case. That means going about the football season without West Virginia Radio Corp.'s eight stations - eight powerful stations - that dot the state. There are more than three dozen stations that are not West Virginia Radio Corp.'s that either remain football affiliates or have been before and could be contracted again for a short term.
So WVU could still have a list of affiliates as large or larger before. They won't be as powerful and might lack the width needed to reach the same audience, bit it might have to suffice. It might be the only choice.
That doesn't solve all the problems, though. A contract with West Virginia Radio Corp. means more than stations and on-air talent, and both could be casualties because WVU might not be able or willing to contract West Virginia Radio Corp. employees. It's about production and familiarity with the audience, and no matter the elements to this dispute, that company does a job WVU likes and peers respect.
The most critical concern for you and for WVU ought not to be in the quantity of stations and the audience, but the quality of the product.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.