MORGANTOWN – The Rich Rodriguez lawsuit is headed back to Monongalia County.
U.S. District Judge John P. Bailey issued a ruling Monday stating that the suit over the $4 million buyout clause in the former West Virginia University football coach's contract should be heard in state court because WVU is a part of state government.
The suit originally was filed in Monongalia Circuit Court on Dec. 27. Rodriguez removed the suit to federal court Jan.16, claiming diversity jurisdiction as a Michigan citizen.
Bailey, however, wrote that residency didn't matter in this case.
Both statute and case law show WVU "can hardly be said to be autonomous," Bailey wrote. "The contract in question, under which the 'buyout' moneys are sought, is a contract between Coach Rodriguez and the West Virginia University Board of Governors. That contract, assuming that it is valid and enforceable (an issue not presently before this court), requires Coach Rodriguez to pay the money to the university."
Rodriguez and his attorneys argue that if he owes $4 million for terminating his contract, he owes it to the private WVU Foundation and not the university.
"West Virginia University had virtually no actual responsibility for a substantial portion of the salary that the Plaintiff contracted to pay to the Defendant," Attorney Sean McGinley wrote in a recent court document. "... all payments that would be made to West Virginia University most likely would be directed to the West Virginia University Foundation."
The university retained Thomas Flaherty of Charleston and Robert Fitzsimmons of Wheeling to pursue the claim against Rodriguez.