CLARKSBURG – By abandoning the West Virginia University football team before their final game, former coach Rich Rodriguez strengthened his defensive position in a $4 million contract dispute with West Virginia taxpayers.

On Jan. 16, Rodriguez removed the university's lawsuit from Monongalia Circuit Court to federal court, arguing that the university sued a Michigan man.

According to his attorney, Sean McGinley of Charleston, Rodriguez and his spouse moved to a Michigan address, hooked up a Michigan phone, obtained Michigan drivers licenses and registered to vote in Michigan -- all before the university sued him.

"On the day this lawsuit was filed, December 27, 2007, Coach Rodriguez was physically present in the State of Michigan," McGinley wrote.

McGinley removed the suit to the Clarksburg division of federal court in the Northern District of West Virginia. McGinley practices at DiTrapano Barrett and DiPiero in Charleston.

The removal notice also shows Marvin Robon and Ethan Davis of Maumee, Ohio, as counsel for Rodriguez. He resigned Dec. 19.

Assistant coach Bill Stewart took over as interim coach and led the Mountaineers to a 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. After the game, Stewart was named the new head coach.

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