Source: NCAA's probe eyes Rodriguez
West Virginia University officials confirmed on Tuesday that NCAA investigators have recently interviewed university officials about potential rules violations involving the Mountaineers' football program.
West Virginia officials wouldn't comment on the specifics of the allegations, but a source close to the situation said the allegations center on former Mountaineers coach and current Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez.
Michigan is currently under investigation for alleged NCAA rules violations concerning the amount of time players spend on football-related activities.
"The NCAA has met with individuals involved with the West Virginia football program to identify any potential rules violations," school officials said in a statement, released on Tuesday. "The university has fully cooperated with the NCAA during this process. West Virginia University and its department of intercollegiate athletics is committed to operating its athletics department in conformance with the legislation and policies of the NCAA and the Big East Conference."
Michael Fragale, West Virginia's assistant athletic director for communications, said neither athletic director Ed Pastilong nor football coach Bill Stewart would comment on the NCAA inquiry. He would not specify when NCAA investigators visited the university.
On Feb. 23, Michigan officials announced the NCAA had accused its football program of five potentially major rules violations. In its notice of allegations, the NCAA alleged Rodriguez "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program."
The report said Rodriguez tracked neither what his staff was doing nor whether his players were following NCAA rules, particularly those limiting the time spent on practice and football-related activities.
A reporter attempted to ask Rodriguez for comment on the report Tuesday at his weekly news conference and was cut off by Dave Ablauf, the director of media relations, before the question was finished.
"We're going to pass on that," Ablauf said.
Rodriguez did not respond.
During a news conference in which the NCAA allegations were announced, incoming Michigan athletic director David Brandon expressed full support for Rodriguez, who has an 8-16 record in two seasons at Michigan.
"Rich Rodriguez is our football coach, and he will be our football coach next year," Brandon said at the time.
A message seeking comment was left with Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown.
Michigan officials have steadfastly stuck by the school's policy to not answer NCAA-related questions until its ongoing investigation is completed.
"There is no new NCAA investigation involving the University of Michigan," Brandon said in a statement released by the school Tuesday night. "Any question regarding an NCAA query should be directed to the NCAA. There is nothing new that would cause me to change my position. Rich will coach our team this fall."
The NCAA also alleged that Michigan's athletics department failed to monitor whether its football program was complying with NCAA rules. Brandon acknowledged that Michigan's athletics department "clearly made mistakes" but said "there was no charge of loss of institutional control," an allegation that in previous cases has led to more severe NCAA-imposed sanctions for other schools.
Before leaving West Virginia, his alma mater, to replace Lloyd Carr as Michigan's coach before the 2008 season, Rodriguez was one of the most popular coaches in West Virginia history. He had a 60-26 record in seven seasons from 2001 to 2007 and guided the Mountaineers to two BCS bowl games.
But Rodriguez's abrupt departure before the 2008 Fiesta Bowl was contentious, and the school sued him for a $4 million buyout.
Rodriguez and West Virginia settled the case in July 2008, as Michigan agreed to pay $2.5 million of the buyout and Rodriguez agreed to pay the remaining $1.5 million in three installments.
Mark Schlabach covers college football for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was included in this report.
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