- Joe Schad, ESPN.com
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Attorneys for former West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez are planning to argue against Rodriguez having to pay the university a $4 million buyout, claiming he was "fraudulently induced to sign a contract with false promises."
Ken Kendrick, a primary West Virginia athletics donor and close friend of Rodriguez, said Tuesday he had knowledge of lawyers' intentions to contest the buyout.
"I will be a witness to any and all proceedings that occur," said Kendrick, who is the managing general partner of Major League Baseball's Arizona Diamondbacks. "They baited and switched him. Rich was boxed in by a university and athletic department that was arrogant, mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt.
"How can someone like me now commit money to this university?"
In a statement Tuesday,
the chairman of WVU's Board of Governors said "WVU went to the ends of the earth to keep the coach here."
Kendrick read from a copy of a document of promises he said were agreed to when Rodriguez signed his new West Virginia contract before this season. Among the promises Kendrick said were not met:
• Allowing players to keep textbooks for resale, a practice that occurs at some other schools.
• Waiving a $5 charge for high school coaches to attend Mountaineers games.
• Having authority over distribution of sideline passes. Kendrick said Rodriguez "negotiated" one for his wife, Rita.
• Having authority to allocate funds from the 1100 Club for coaches.
• A committment to increase pay for his assistant coaches.
• Additional money to pay graduate assistants.
• Hiring an additional recruiting assistant.
"I believe Rich will have a strong case against the university," Kendrick said. "They should and will fight the university. How could this happen?"
Kendrick said he and other donors stated they would fund the requests but their offer was denied.
"This was 100 percent preventable, which is what makes it so sad," Kendrick said. "He was frustrated. Things weren't getting done. He'd never say it because he's a class act. So I'll say it."
Stephen Goodwin, chairman of WVU's Board of Governors, expressed support for how athletic director Ed Pastilong and WVU president Mike Garrison have handled the coaching situation and said the university listened to others' suggestions.
"WVU went to the ends of the earth to keep the coach here -- and clearly, some of our major donors assisted the school in that effort," Goodwin said. "There were some very minor issues that [Rodriguez] raised with the administration -- and people were working on them. I think you will agree that the things that are being talked about are pretty minor in comparison to what has been done already.
"But he clearly was looking for an excuse to leave -- he looked last year, and again this year.
"But when he went to visit [Michigan], and then came back to campus with demands based on those minor issues -- university officials simply told him they would continue to work the issues," Goodwin said. "He was asked to focus on the student athletes and the upcoming bowl game. There's a long offseason coming up to work out those sorts of minor issues. Whoever comes in as coach will know that they can count on support from WVU on big issues and small issues."
During Rodriguez's tenure with the program, Goodwin said the university increased his salary by 70 percent, raised the salaries of his assistants, built a $2 million academic center for the team and commenced construction on a $6 million locker room renovation.
"That loss to Pittsburgh [in West Virginia's final regular-season game, denying it a berth in the BCS Championship] was bad. But seeing what it would take to win in light of the items yet to be resolved, he began to see it in a sinister way," Kendrick said. "He had made an impassioned plea for what he needed. And they had stiffed him. He felt he had no support and had no choice but to leave."
Kendrick said former West Virginia basketball coach John Beilein had his buyout negotiated down from $2.5 million to $1.5 million after last season, in part, because WVU had failed to deliver on promises.
Beilein now coaches Michigan.
"At the end of the day, the university is governed by its board and its president, and the people they appoint to positions of responsibility," Goodwin said in his statement. "Making donations to a public university does not entitle anyone to dictate policy or personnel."
Rodriguez took the job as Michigan coach on Sunday after seven
seasons in Morgantown, where he led West Virginia to four Big East
championships and a 60-26 record.
West Virginia football spokesman Mike Montoro confirmed late
Tuesday that Rodriguez's resignation was moved up from Jan. 3 to
midnight Tuesday, but did not know the reason for the change.
Rodriguez had said that he wasn't going to coach West Virginia
in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2 out of concern that it would create
too much of a distraction.
The university also announced associate head coach Bill Stewart
was named interim coach as the administration starts looking for a
permanent replacement for Rodriguez. Stewart will also take over
Goodwin said he can't predict whether WVU and its former coach
will end up in court over a $4 million buyout clause.
"We intend to abide by the contract and all its terms," he
said, "and we certainly hope that Coach Rodriguez intends to do
Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown said he doesn't know and cannot
comment on whether his client will contest the buyout clause.
Rodriguez's departure has created hard feelings around the state.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that signs proclaiming Grant Town, population of less than 1,000, as the hometown of Rodriguez have come down by order of Mayor Robert Riggs.
Riggs said Tuesday he wasn't doing it out of anger, but to
pre-empt vandalism or theft by outraged Mountaineers fans, the AP reported. Grant Town is about 20 miles west from West Virginia's
Morgantown campus. The signs are in storage, and Riggs said he plans to return them
to the resident who originally paid to have them installed.
Even West Virginia's governor had something to say about Rodriguez's departure. Gov. Joe Manchin, a fellow Marion County native, said the coach
is a "victim" of high-priced sports agents. A shop that sells cemetery memorials in Charleston put the words "Coach Rodriguez" on one of the headstones displayed in a shop window.
Joe Schad covers college football for ESPN. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.