June 25, 2013

Three cheers for Sherman baseball players who were selected to the 2013 Class A All-State team. Making the first team was junior John Hunter. With another year of eligibility, one can expect big things from Hunter next season with the Tide infield.

Special honorable mention went to senior Duncan Breeden, who capped a fantastic career at Seth.

Hats off to Coach Pettry and all the Tide players on a successful year.

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As a breakfast mate said the other day, “He probably has some good points. If he just wasn’t John Raese.”

As the Morgantown millionaire launches into the legal side of his battle with West Virginia University, I’d have to say I agree with my friend’s assessment. Raese probably has many legitimate points in his argument with WVU. On the other hand, he simply can’t help being obnoxious because he is … well, John Raese. In addition, any unbiased individual is easily going to determine that what bothers Raese the most is that his own group of radio stations will be losing their “sweetheart” deal from which they have profited for years.

At the heart of the issue is WVU’s decision to finally attempt to get some real money out of its media rights. After years in which Raese’s West Virginia Radio Corporation stations basically stole the WVU game broadcasts, they decided to put the whole matter out to bid.

Knowing his company would not win, Raese quickly called foul. And, as noted, there is likely plenty of “foul” to complain about. Still, that does not make Raese, the perennial political loser, any more popular with the folks in the field.

Some of what Raese is complaining about should be fairly easy to document. Many Mountaineer fans that I know (no, none of them are my friends since they are for WVU) commented on Raese’s allegations that the WVU Foundation took a $5 million dollar loss without making such public. Also, the machinations to eventually pay $5 million for two scoreboards is fascinating reading.

It seems that former Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, who the current administration desperately wanted rid of, questioned some of the dealings at the time they were going on. His concerns were always overridden by higher ups in the Morgantown administration.

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In 2007, the story goes, Pansonic offered to supply the West Virginia Coliseum with a free scoreboard in exchange for the school purchasing a new board for their football venue. This offer apparently came some time after WVU officials had been working on a request for proposals (RFP) to purchase the new boards.

Again, Pastilong objected when he saw that WVU was seriously looking at the Panasonic offer. He pointed out that no bidding had been done, as required by state law.

That apparently did not phase the WVU hierarchy, who eventually ended up with the two boards and a pledge from the Foundation to pay $5 million for the football board. When they failed to raise any funds to take care of that debt, Panasonic insisted on being paid for both scoreboards.

Interestingly, Raese, who filed a lawsuit last week in Monongalia County circuit court, points out that the Panasonic sales representative who contacted WVU about the deal is Richard Ballard. Richard Ballard, just by coincidence of course, is the brother of Ralph Ballard, a business partner of WVU Board of Governors Chairman Drew Payne.

By even more amazing coincidence, Ralph Ballard and Payne are shareholders in West Virginia Media, Bray Carey’s company that is seeking the WVU media rights currently. In other words, West Virginia Media is the bitter enemy of Raese’s company, West Virginia Radio Corporation.

Isn’t it amazing how often coincidences occur in West Virginia? I know it’s a small state where Governor Earl Ray Tomblin can only find seven people qualified to appoint to state boards, but you would think the appearance of impropriety might be avoided sometime.

In addition to selling the state the two scoreboards, the deal with Panasonic included a stipulation that their company name appear prominently on both of them. That means the company is getting free advertising at all WVU events, while scalping the taxpayers with a no-bid contract, if Raese is correct.

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It will be intriguing to see how WVU athletic officials and my friend, Payne, explain what happened in Morgantown. And one must believe, as Ricky Ricardo always said, “They’ll be some ‘splaining to do.”

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has already looked into the media award situation and forced WVU to start all over. Now, he is examining the scoreboard deals. One would guess that the result of that will be no better for WVU than the previous one. Regardless, I believe one can count on Morrisey to give an honest evaluation of what happened.

That being said, the real intrigue will come when Raese lawyers depose WVU officials and during the discovery process. Payne has become totally silent about the situation in recent weeks but he will not be able to remain silent in depositions.

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All of this reminds me of yet another reason why it is good to be a Marshall man. WVU stalwarts have sunk millions into that athletic program and this how your officials take care of the money. Holy cow.

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Look for the Van Bulldogs to make every effort to return to their winning ways of the past when the 2013 football season rolls around in August. Despite a tough schedule, the Dogs feel they are poised to make some noise in Single A.

The season kicks off August 30 when Van travels to Meadow Bridge. Then, in the home debut, Paden City comes to town on September 6. It’s off to Smithers to meet Valley (Fayette) on September 13.

The long journey to Richwood in Nicholas County comes October 4. Which brings me to one of my eternal questions: how is there a Nicholas COUNTY High School in Summersville and a Richwood High in Richwood, Nicholas County? That never did make any sense to me.

The Boone County showdown with Sherman will take place at Van on October 11.

Always tough Tug Valley hosts the Bulldogs on October 18.

Then, the Dogs hit what could be a rough stretch as they play on the road for their final three contests.

It’s off to Clay-Battelle on October 15; then a long drive to South Gallia (Ohio) on November 1. South Gallia is the equivalent of a West Virginia Class A high school, so a win or loss there counts as a Single A decision for ranking purposes in the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) poll.

The regular season ends of November 8 with a visit to Man, where the Hillbillies are always a difficult draw.

All in all, it will be a challenge for the Bulldogs. There are few easy assignments on the schedule (perhaps South Gallia would be the closest, although it is difficult to know how that team might be this year).

Still, Van fans have much to look forward to as the team continues to take on quality opponents. They will never go far in the playoffs if they don’t prove during the regular season they can play with the best. That’s a good philosophy – and I comment Van officials for keeping it in mind.