Pitt Sues IMG College for $3.5M, Claims Retaliation

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The University of Pittsburgh is suing IMG College, the nation’s largest collegiate sports marketing company, claiming that is has “intentionally withheld” about $3.6 million in royalties and additional payments.

As reported by The Pitt News student newspaper, the university’s legal representatives filed the complaint last week in federal court, about a month after the university’s licensing agreement with IMG expired. Pitt alleges that IMG is withholding the money owed as retaliation for Pitt’s decision not to extend its seven-year licensing agreement with the marketing company, which went into effect in July 2012.

Under its licensing agreement with Pitt, IMG had the right to arrange for certain radio broadcasts of Pitt athletic events not subject to other network commitments and to produce, distribute and sell certain Athletic department publications and materials, among other marketing, promotional and commercial rights connected to the athletic department. The agreement ended on June 30.

Pitt athletic director Heather Lyke notified IMG of the department’s decision not to extend the licensing agreement on March 13, according to the suit. The next day, Pitt announced it had signed a long-term multimedia rights deal with collegiate marketing firm JMI Sports. Pitt and JMI’s deal began July 1. 

The university requested payment of the funds it claims IMG owes on June 6, according to the complaint. About $3,535,000 of the requested amount includes broadcast and publication royalties, compensation for parking passes and game tickets provided to IMG and an unspecified additional consideration for “exceptional performance.”  Pitt states in the court document that the Panthers’ football team reaching the 2018 ACC championship game qualifies as “exceptional performance.” 

Pitt also claims it is owed an additional $26,364.65 for travel costs for IMG staff and sponsors, $25,000 regarding the “UPMC Pitt Live Wire” platform and $23,534.86 of online auction revenue, The Pitt News reported.

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