WVU's lawsuit transferred after Rodriguez moved to  Michigan

Updated: January 17, 2008, 9:16 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia University's lawsuit against Rich Rodriguez was transferred to federal court on Wednesday because the former Mountaineers coach had moved to Michigan when it was filed.

"We're perfectly comfortable and happy to litigate this case in any court," said Thomas Flaherty, a Charleston attorney representing WVU. "This is not unanticipated."

Rich Rodriguez


The move gives Rodriguez, hired by Michigan on Dec. 16, until next Wednesday to file a response. The suit was filed in a local court on Dec. 27 to collect on a $4 million buyout clause in his contract.

Meanwhile, the university is continuing its investigation into missing records associated with the program under Rodriguez.

"What's got to be determined is what exactly is missing," WVU spokesman Mike Fragale told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "There's a lot of things I just don't know."

Citing anonymous sources, The Charleston Gazette reported Tuesday that files kept in Rodriguez's private office disappeared between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3, along with strength and conditioning records from the weight room.

The newspaper report claimed the missing documents included players' personal contact information, scholarship payments and class attendance records, as well as strength and conditioning records and photographs that tracked players' physical progress.

The files were discovered missing from the Puskar Center in Morgantown, where Rodriguez had a private office, after WVU coaches returned from the Jan. 2 Fiesta Bowl.

University spokeswoman Amy Neil said the WVU Office of Admissions and Records maintains grade and attendance records in a separate location, so no student-athlete's academic career is at risk.

"We're not sure what records are missing, but all student records, including those of the football team, are kept within the Office of Admissions and Records," she said. "Those records are secure."

Neil said she believes it would not be unusual for the head coach to have copies of his own records to ensure players are maintaining their required grade-point averages or meeting scholarship requirements.

Mike Brown, Rodriguez's agent, backed up Neil's statement.

"[Rodriguez] did not keep records for every player and academic records for the players are certainly on file at the school," he said

Brown said Tuesday night that many of the claims made by a West Virginia athletic department source in the article are false.

Brown has said Moutaineers head coach Bill Stewart, as a former assistant, should have copies of each players' strength and conditioning tests because multiple copies were made. He also said the university should have any records involving the finances of the summer camps it ran.

"The head coach and each assistant coach received hard copies of the strength progress," Brown said. "So I would think coach [Bill] Stewart and others would have those, too."

Brown said any files that are missing would be personal to Rodriguez.

"It is common knowledge that when a coach leaves a program certain items of a personal nature would always be discarded," he said.

Brown, however, declined to say whether Rodriguez removed or destroyed any documents, saying that question would be addressed in court documents.

Flaherty said it would be premature to comment on whether the missing documents had any possible bearing on WVU's lawsuit against Rodriguez.

The Charleston Daily Mail reported Thursday that cell phone records show that Rodriguez called two Michigan recruits and possibly a third from his WVU-issued cell phone in the hours after he told his Mountaineers team he was leaving to coach at Michigan on Dec. 16. He was introduced as the new Michigan coach on Dec. 17.

The newspaper obtained the cell phone records through the Freedom of Information Act.

Last month, the WVU Board of Governors requested that Rodriguez submit "full and complete copies of all cell phone records, text message records, phone records, and e-mails for the time period between December 1, 2007, up to and including December 18, 2007."

According to the Daily Mail, university officials are concerned that Rodriguez might have violated a "duty of loyalty" by contacting Michigan recruits while still employed by WVU. The NCAA recruiting period was also in a "quiet period" when WVU believes Rodriguez made contact with the Wolverines recruits.

ESPN college football reporter Joe Schad and The Associated Press contributed to this report.