Governor says school fulfilled promises, Rodriguez still owes $4M buyout

Updated: December 20, 2007, 2:07 PM ET
Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- Gov. Joe Manchin doesn't believe West Virginia University reneged on its promises to Rich Rodriguez, which is what supporters of the Mountaineers former coach say triggered his exit to Michigan.

"All I've seen is mammoth improvements, tremendous improvements," Manchin said Thursday.

The governor cited the 70 percent boost to Rodriguez's pay, increased salaries for his coaching staff and a $2 million academic center for athletes.

"I don't know the intricacies of it. I'm speaking as a fan," Manchin said.

The governor earlier called on WVU to hold Rodriguez, a lifelong friend, to the $4 million buyout clause in its contract with him. Since then, several wealthy donors to the school have alleged WVU let down Rodriguez.

Manchin said Thursday he doesn't care who pays. "Whoever, I just want West Virginia to get the $4 million," the governor said. "If someone is generous enough to pay it, that's fine."

Some prominent West Virginia boosters have criticized the school for not doing enough to keep Rodriguez in Morgantown.

The No. 11 Mountaineers (10-2) play No. 3 Oklahoma (11-2) in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2. Rodriguez initially told WVU he planned to leave the day after the bowl game, but then announced he would not be coaching the bowl game and resigned Tuesday.

He led West Virginia to four Big East championships and a 60-26 record in seven seasons.

Associate head coach Bill Stewart was made interim coach as the team prepares for the Fiesta Bowl.

Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden, Florida assistant coach Doc Holliday and Central Michigan coach Butch Jones have all reportedly interviewed for the West Virginia job.

Holliday is a West Virginia native and was a linebacker for the Mountaineers before spending 17 years (1983-99) as an assistant coach under Don Nehlen. Holliday was an associate head coach and receivers coach at North Carolina State (2000-04) before joining coach Urban Meyer at Florida in 2005.

Bowden, son of Florida State coach and former West Virginia coach Bobby Bowden, played running back for the Mountaineers in 1977-78. Terry Bowden was 47-16-1 at Auburn from 1993 to 1998 and has been a broadcaster since leaving the Tigers.

Jones served as an assistant coach under Rodriguez in 2005 and 2006. He led the Chippewas to an 8-5 record and a Mid-American Conference championship in his first year as coach at CMU.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press