MORGANTOWN – West Virginia University's $4 million lawsuit against former football coach Rich Rodriguez caries an element of mystery in an allegation that he contacted Mountaineer recruits before resigning.
University general counsel Alex Macia said Jan. 10 that the allegation relates to Rodriguez's duty of loyalty to the school.
The suit states that, "... prior to his resignation, Rodriguez and/or persons on his behalf communicated with student athlete recruits for the 2008 football season regarding his employment as the head coach of the University of Michigan football team."
The suit offers no details of the alleged communications.
"We don't know what was said," Macia said.
The university seeks an order from Circuit Judge Robert Stone enforcing a buyout clause in Rodriguez's contract.
Rodriguez faces a Jan. 18 deadline to answer the suit. Macia said he does not know who will represent Rodriguez.
He said Rodriguez can render the suit moot by making an installment payment of $1,333,333, a third of the $4 million buyout, on Jan. 19.
He said the university didn't wait for the installment payment before suing Rodriguez because his associates accused the university of defrauding him. He said Rodriguez did not disavow the statements of his associates.
He said the suit doe not allege breach of contract. H said it seeks declaratory judgment finding the contract enforceable.
Thomas Flaherty, an attorney in private practice in Wheeling, filed the suit. Macia said Flaherty was one of many West Virginia attorneys who offered to sue Rodriguez.
Although Flaherty sued on behalf of the Board of Governors, the board did not authorize the suit. University president Mike Garrison authorized it, Macia said.
In 2001, he said, the former board of trustees converted to a board of governors and granted broad executive powers to the president.
Along with Flaherty, the university retained Robert Fitzsimmons of Wheeling. Macia said Fitzsimmons represented former basketball coach John Beilein in negotiations over his resignation.
Beilein, like Rodriguez, left West Virginia for Michigan.
Macia said he doesn't know how the university will compensate Flaherty and Fitzsimmon.
"That is something we haven't gotten into yet," he said.
By coincidence, Flaherty and Fitzsimmons tussled as opponents at oral arguments in an insurance case before the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on Jan. 8. Fitzsimmons represented an accident victim and Flaherty represented an insurer.