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WVU’s Broken Promises?

Rodriguez to challenge buyout; college supporters bash school

December 19, 2007
MORGANTOWN — The divorce between West Virginia University and departed head football coach Rich Rodriguez has turned nasty.

The biggest development on Tuesday — and there were several — was the news Rodriguez plans to challenge the $4 million buyout in his contract, claiming he was “fraudulently induced to sign a contract with false promises.’’

An article that appeared in Tuesday morning’s edition of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette set off a war or words between primary WVU athletics donors and WVU Board of Governor’s chairman Stephen Goodwin.

In interviews with The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, major donors Earl G. “Ken’’ Kendrick, the managing general partner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, James H. Chamberlain, former chairman, president and CEO of BioSource International in Camarillo, Calif., and Stuart M. Robbins, retired managing director of the Institutional Equities Division of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and present vice chair of the WVU Foundation Board, were highly critical of the way WVU administrators handled the Rodriguez situation.

“The focus on Rich leaving the university was unfairly done and is wrong,” Kendrick explained. “As a guy with significant involvement in the situation, I thought it was time to speak out.”

Kendrick said Rodriguez, “was boxed in by a university and athletic department that was arrogant, mean-spirited and intellectually bankrupt.’’

Kendrick outlined a number of promises made by WVU to Rodriguez that the university has not met. The lengthy list includes:

? Additional money for assistant coaches and graduate assistants;

? Hiring a recruiting assistant;

? Authorization to allocate 1100 Club funds for coaches;

? Waiving of a $5 charge for high school coaches to attend West Virginia games;

? Allow players to keep textbooks from classes for resale.

Goodwin, in a statement released by Director of Football Communications Michael Montoro, said “WVU went to the ends of the earth to keep the coach (Rodriguez) here — and clearly some of our major donors assisted the school in that effort.’’

Goodwin said WVU increased Rodriguez’s salary by 70 percent, increased the pay of his assistant coaches, built a $2 million academic center for the team and has begun construction of a $6 million locker room renovation.

“The board has a lot of confidence in how Ed Pastilong and Mike Garrison are handling this coaching change. They’ve taken a responsible approach to this throughout — and really offered Coach Rodriguez and the team a lot of support in a very difficult time for the team. We’ve heard a lot of support from fans, from alumni, and from donors — large and small — about how the university is handling this.’’

That confidence, however, is not enjoyed by Kendrick or Chamberlain.

“I know there was an uncomfortable atmosphere,” said Kendrick. “I have in writing from Rich last year about things that were not being honored.”

Goodwin countered, saying there were some “very minor issues’’ Rodriguez raised with the administration and that those concerns were being addressed.

“He clearly was looking for an excuse to leave — he looked last year and again this year.’’

Not so, said Chamberlain.

“First of all, it’s been a sad weekend,” Chamberlain stated. “Sadder than the one when we lost to Pitt. Made more aggravating with how the university is trying to smooth this over and make it look as if it was Rich’s fault.”

Goodwin said after Rodriguez met with officials from the University of Michigan, he made demands on minor issues and was told the university would continue to work on those issues. He was asked to focus on the student-athletes and the upcoming bowl game.

That assertion is at the core of the dispute.

“He (Rodriguez) believes and his representative believes that these agreements have not been honored,” said Kendrick. “At the end of the day he only signed it (the contract) when he was promised that these items would be kept.

“There were several of us (donors) that would have put up the money to get these things done.”

At the center of concern for the trio was the sudden loss of not one, but several talented coaches and members of the athletic department, including men’s basketball coach John Beilein and Sports Information Director Shelly Poe.

“Any objective observer that would step back and look at an organization that had lost six major members of its administration would have to ask if there is a problem,” said Robbins. “You really have to ask yourself what is really going on.”

Questions that neither WVU President Michael Garrison or Athletics Director Ed Pastilong will discuss. Answering a request from The Parkersburg News on behalf of Pastilong, Montoro issued a one-sentence statement: “Pastilong made a statement on Sunday and said that is his last comment until he hires a coach.’’

The search has already gotten under way with former Mountaineer assistant John “Doc” Holliday poised to become Rodriguez’s successor, perhaps as early as today.

But the hiring of a new coach won’t solve anything according to Chamberlain, “until there is a change in leadership”.

Sports Editor Dave Poe also contributed to this story

Contact Jim Butta at j'>'>j'>j'>'>jb'>'>



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