Garrison: Rodriguez 'very distraught' in private meeting before he resigned
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia University President Mike Garrison said in a deposition that former football coach Rich Rodriguez was "very distraught" in a private meeting the night before he resigned and accepted the top job at Michigan, complaining about harsh public reaction to a lost shot at a national championship.
As part of the $4 million lawsuit the university has filed over a buyout clause in the coach's contract, Garrison testified the two had a tense final meeting Dec. 15 -- one in which the president admits he may have raised his voice and one in which Rodriguez allegedly put his head in his hands and complained about how difficult his choice was.
A transcript of Garrison's deposition was released late Monday, along with testimony by chief of staff Craig Walker, assistant athletic director Mike Parsons and two members of the WVU Board of Governors.
He did indicate his frustration that he was not supported or valued at the university. And I simply did not agree with that.
-- WVU president Mike Garrison
Garrison also denied in the June proceeding he had misled Rodriguez into signing the contract that was in effect when he quit, disputing assertions he told the coach he didn't believe in and wouldn't enforce buyouts.
Nor did he suggest that if a dispute arose, the parties would probably settle for $2 million, Garrison testified.
He acknowledged, however, he told Rodriguez he might change his position in future contracts, and that he "would like the university to look at other options besides liquidated damages provisions, if they fit the circumstances."
Garrison also revealed he had a testy exchange with sports agent Mike Brown in the summer, before he'd assumed the presidency, in which Brown vowed to "shop, as he put it, Product Rodriguez on the open market."
Garrison found Brown's remarks about the state and the university "fairly disparaging" and said he later told Rodriguez that Brown did not have the coach's best interests in mind.
Garrison's account of the pivotal final meeting differs greatly from the recollections of Rodriguez, who claims he urged Garrison to keep a variety of promises that had not been kept.
The only point on which the two apparently agree is that each felt the other had become a different person.
Rodriguez had unresolved demands involving assistant coaches, a personal Web site, free passes for high school coaches and other matters. He says Garrison unequivocally refused to meet them.
Garrison, however, says he reiterated his commitment to working on the outstanding issues but could not give a firm answer that evening.
"I didn't say 'yes' or 'no.' What I said was, 'We will continue to look at these items,'" Garrison testified.
Garrison acknowledged he was surprised that Rodriguez had "engaged in meaningful, apparent negotiations" with Michigan the day before and that he had to learn of those talks through the media. He also said it's possible he raised his voice as the conversation became more heated.
"I don't know if I yelled or not, but there was, there was one point in the conversation where I did become aggravated, and it was the point in the conversation when I expressed my strong feelings -- which I maintain today -- that there is great value in coaching at your alma mater, at your home university and in your home state."
Rodriguez "didn't think the place was necessarily any more special than anyplace else," Garrison testified, "and I was angry about that."
Rodriguez complained about criticism that followed the Mountaineers' Dec. 1 loss to Pittsburgh, which kept West Virginia out of the national championship game.
"He did indicate his frustration that he was not supported or valued at the university," Garrison said. "And I simply did not agree with that."
Walker and athletic director Ed Pastilong also had a final meeting with Rodriguez on Dec. 15. Walker, too, testified the university was still considering the coach' demands. He was then asked if Rodriguez would still be coach if his demands had been met that day.
"I have no idea," Walker said. "If I was guessing, there would be an additional list. If those got done, there would be an additional list. Coach Rodriguez was very driven, always wanted to be the very best. That's a credible thing, but if those things were done, there would've been a new list, then a new list."
Walker said his last words were, "We want you as our coach. This is where you've grown up, and you're a big part of this. We want you as a coach." The two have not spoken since.
Walker testified Rodriguez knew what he was signing when he extended his contract in August 2007, and that the decision was supported by his wife, his attorney, his agent and his financial adviser.
"Before Coach Rodriguez signed the contract he looked ... at either Mr. Brown or Mr. Wilcox and said, 'Is this a good deal, should I do it?'" Walker said. "And if it was Mr. Brown, the answer was yes. The same question was asked of Mr. Wilcox and the answer was yes. The same question was asked of Mrs. Rodriguez and the answer was yes. And at that time he signed the agreement."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press