Rodriguez offers to pay portion of buyout; sides still trying to settle

Updated: January 30, 2008, 2:18 AM ET
By Mark Schlabach | ESPN.com

In an act of good faith, former West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez has offered to pay the school $1.5 million to buy out the final six years of his contract, according to a letter of credit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg, W.Va.

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Rodriguez, who was hired as Michigan's coach on Dec. 16, filed the letter of credit "in the spirit of compromise and as an act of good faith to assure West Virginia University that if this Honorable Court makes an award against Defendant, said monies will be paid," according to the court filing.

Tom Flaherty, an attorney representing the university, said WVU "has no interest in resolving this for $1.5 million."

"The university has lived up to all its obligations under the contract, and the university expects him to live up to the $4 million that is owed," Flaherty said.

Marv Robon, one of Rodriguez's Ohio-based attorneys, said a judge will ultimately decide how much, if anything, Rodriguez owes his former school. Robon said he is prepared to file a response to the university's lawsuit by Monday's deadline. Robon said he requested an extension to file the response -- beyond the Feb. 6 national signing day for college football to avoid negative publicity for both sides -- but West Virginia's attorneys declined the request.

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/Tony DingMichigan's new coach was sued by WVU to collect on a $4 million buyout clause. The sides are trying to settle out of court, sources said.

"When I file something, I'm going to hurt them and I don't want to," Robon said. "I have no ax to grind with that university, but I have to protect the interests of Rich and his wife Rita. The other side is so hell bent on what they want to do -- a burning-the-bridges kind of thing."

WVU sued Rodriguez last month to collect on a $4 million buyout clause in the contract he signed Aug. 24. Rodriguez's attorneys have disputed the coach owes his former school that much. Rodriguez claims he was pressured into signing a one-year extension at West Virginia and claims university president Mike Garrison promised to lower the amount of his buyout.

"The perception is the coach is trying to get out of this and not pay West Virginia anything," said Ethan Davis, another one of Rodriguez's attorneys. "We're certainly willing to pay something, but the $4 million is absolutely oppressive and unfair."

In the latest court filing, Rodriguez's attorneys wrote: "The amount of the Letter of Credit is equal to the maximum liquidated damages provision [penalty] at the date of termination provided in the first amendment to the original Employment Agreement. In any event, the amount of the letter of credit exceeds the first payment that Plaintiff claims is due."

Former Mountaineers basketball coach John Beilein, who was hired as Michigan's coach last April, paid West Virginia $1.5 million to buy out the final five years of his contract. The amount was $1 million less than the penalty called for in Beilein's contract, which ran through the 2012 season.

Mark Schlabach covers college sports for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

Mark Schlabach | email

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