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Rodriguez accuses WVU of staging 'smear campaign'

Rich Rodriguez broke his silence on the controversy that has followed since he left West Virginia for Michigan, saying during a hastily scheduled conference call that he had been the target of a "smear campaign."

"There seems to be a campaign to try to smear me," Rodriguez
said Thursday. "I
haven't said anything until recently, when I felt I needed to
defend all the false accusations.

"It has just gotten ridiculous over the last couple of days."

An investigation into missing files from Rodriguez's former
office revealed the academic records of West Virginia
football
players are secure after a newspaper report raised questions about
missing paperwork.

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.

"There's so many inaccuracies and falsehood and innuendo, at
some point, you get tired of getting beat up," he said. "It was
that I erased academic files, then the next day, 'Oh no, that
didn't happen.' The corrections are on page six and the lead story
is on page one."

Rodriguez said he only removed personal papers, such as notes
about players or his game plans.

"There was an implication that I had all these secret files and
I was throwing them away, but it's simply not true," Rodriguez
said.

Rodriguez also addressed questions about another story in the
Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail, which reported that West Virginia
officials were concerned Rodriguez contacted Michigan recruits
before he resigned as Mountaineers coach. The NCAA recruiting period was also in a "quiet period" when WVU believes Rodriguez made contact with the Wolverines recruits.

The newspaper also reported Rodriguez's West Virginia cell phone
records show he called two Michigan recruits and possibly a third
from his WVU-issued phone on Dec. 16 after he told the Mountaineers
players he was going to Michigan. He was introduced at Michigan the
next day.

During the conference call, Rodriguez insisted he did not
contact any Michigan recruits while he was still employed by West
Virginia.

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.

The West Virginia native and former Mountaineer player expected
hard feelings when he left to lead the Wolverines, but he has been
disappointed by the scope of the resentment.

"I know there is disappointment and hard feelings because it's
a small state and the program is a source of great pride, but this
campaign is not helping West Virginia's program," he said.
"You're trying to hurt Rich Rodriguez, but you're hurting West
Virginia."

West Virginia has sued him to collect on a $4 million buyout
clause in his contract. On Wednesday, the case was transferred from
Monongalia County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in
Clarksburg.

The court filing indicated Rodriguez had established residency
in Michigan by the time the lawsuit was filed.

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

The move gives Rodriguez five extra days, until next Wednesday,
to file a response to the lawsuit. The initial deadline was Friday.
The jurisdiction move also means any appeals would be filed through
the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., instead of
the state Supreme Court.

"I changed jobs. This is America, and sometimes you change
jobs," Rodriguez said. "I would hope that at some point when
emotions cool down, that you can see the good things."

Rodriguez's relatives have been
harassed and threatened since his resignation as
West Virginia football coach.

His mother, Arleen Rodriguez, said her teen grandson received
a death threat and found other harassing notes taped to his locker
at East Fairmont High School. Arleen said her 12-year-old
granddaughter had to be escorted to classes.

Mountaineers fans furious over Rodriguez's decision to
accept the coaching job at Michigan also vandalized his home near
Morgantown, hanging signs on a fence and tossing a mailbox in the
yard.

Last month, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin blamed the
involvement of what he termed "high-priced agents" for changing
Rodriguez as a person.

Rodriguez said Manchin has called him to apologize.

"I said, 'Why did you say those things? It kind of hurt me,' "
Rodriguez recalled. "He apologized and said, 'Maybe I shouldn't
have said some things.' He said in the future, he could put things
in a positive light.

"That was on Christmas, but I haven't heard anything."

The Associated Press and ESPN's Joe Schad contributed to this report.