The University of Pittsburgh has filed a complaint against 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.
Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, the university’s legal representatives, filed the complaint Monday in federal court, about a month after the University’s licensing agreement with the company ended.
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, effective July 2012. The company’s other clients include Harvard University, Boston College and Vanderbilt University, among others.
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 spokesperson Joe Miksch said in a statement that IMG has failed to pay the university certain amounts owed under a multimedia rights contract.
“We look forward to resolving the matter in court,” he said.
In a statement sent by IMG spokesperson Jennifer Duncan, Tom Walsh of Winston & Strawn, IMG’s lawyer, said the company “hopes this matter can be resolved amicably.”
“IMG College is confident that it has complied with all of its contractual obligations,” he said.
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, a day after the university’s deal with IMG expired.
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.
Despite the end of the licensing agreement and the complaint filed, Pitt is still doing dealings with IMG. Pitt announced a multiyear extension in June with IMG College’s Ticket Solutions branch, which oversees ticket renewals, season ticket sales, premium seating at Heinz Field and Petersen Events Center and more.
“Learfield IMG College Ticket Solutions has been an outstanding partner for the Panthers,” Lyke said. “Their professionalism and expertise have been outstanding assets as we strive to provide our fans with the very best experiences at each of our athletic venues.”