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Rodriguez defends Michigan residency to try to keep lawsuit in federal court

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Rich Rodriguez defended his Michigan
residency in an effort to keep the West Virginia University lawsuit
in federal court.

Rich and Rita Rodriguez signed a lease on a townhouse in Ann
Arbor, Mich., establishing residency in that state the day before
West Virginia sued him over a $4 million buyout clause in his
contract, his lawyer said in court documents filed Monday night.

The couple also registered as Michigan voters and obtained
Michigan driver licenses on Dec. 27, the same day the lawsuit was
filed in a state court in West Virginia.

Those are among the arguments attorney Marv Robon made in
documents arguing the lawsuit should remain in U.S. District Court
in Clarksburg, W.Va. The university wants the case sent back to
Monongalia County Circuit Court in Morgantown, where it originated.

WVU claims Rodriguez was living in West Virginia and his
children were attending West Virginia schools when the lawsuit was
filed. The school also said Rodriguez mailed a second resignation
letter Jan. 10, using his Morgantown residence as the return
address.

Rodriguez, however, offered federal Judge John P. Bailey proof
of residency with a FedEx tracking label showing he sent that
letter from Ann Arbor, Mich.

His lawyers contend he did so to protect himself and family from
more threats, harassment and vandalism following his Dec. 18
resignation, which sparked a bitter public feud.

Last week, Rodriguez said he owes the university $1.5 million in
a letter of credit filed with the U.S. District Court.

Bailey must, among other things, decide whether WVU is "an
alter ego of the state," as it contends, arguing lawsuits
involving the state can be heard only in a state court.

Rodriguez has repeatedly claimed WVU broke the terms of his
contract by failing to honor a variety of verbal promises,
including one to reduce or eliminate his buyout.

WVU denies such a promise was made and insists it was working to
accommodate the coach's demands when he quit for the coaching job
at Michigan.

The gradual disintegration of the relationship between Rodriguez
and the WVU athletic department was documented in a series of
e-mails outlining the coach's failed attempts to gain more control
over the football program.

Also, Rodriguez responded to WVU's lawsuit by demanding the
school's private fundraising arm, the WVU Foundation, be made a
party to the case.

The foundation, which had been run in part by WVU President Mike
Garrison's chief of staff, Craig Walker, is not legally obligated
to open its books to public scrutiny under ordinary circumstances.
But it funnels money from boosters to WVU athletic programs.

Rodriguez said the state attorney general should be a plaintiff
if the university is an extension of state government.

He argues the university filed the lawsuit without proper
approvals by its Board of Governors, a charge the board chairman
has denied.