Rodriguez says he didn't know of 90-day notice

By Steve Korris | May 23, 2008



ROMULUS, Michigan – Former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez swears he didn't know that in order to accuse the university of breaching his contract, he had to give 90 days notice in writing.

In a deposition April 21 at a hotel near the Detroit airport, Rodriguez said his agent, Mike Brown, sent memos to the university about promises the university hadn't kept.

University attorney Thomas Flaherty of Charleston asked Rodriguez if he knew he had to provide 90 days notice of alleged breaches of contract.

"I didn't know that," Rodriguez said.

"It's in the document," Flaherty said.

"I didn't know that," Rodriguez said.

"You had lawyers and accountants and sports agents working with you. Didn't anybody discuss that with you?" Flaherty said.

"No, they didn't," Rodriguez said.

"You had the documents, right?" Flaherty said.

"I had the documents," Rodriguez said. "I didn't even consider it."

Flaherty deposed Rodriguez in a Monongalia County lawsuit seeking to enforce a $4 million buyout in his contract. Rodriguez resigned in December to coach the University of Michigan.

Rodriguez has countersued, claiming the university fraudulently induced him to sign the contract and that the university breached the contract by breaking oral promises.

He signed the contract last August. Eight months earlier, in December 2006, he had signed a term sheet with the same provisions.

The signing of the term sheet followed an announcement in Alabama newspapers that Rodriguez would coach the Crimson Tide in 2007.

Flaherty asked if West Virginia boosters raised money at that point to send a message that they wanted him to stay.

Rodriguez said he met first with Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.

"That meeting was discouraging because there wasn't an effort, I felt, to keep me," he said.

He said boosters Ken Kendrick, David Alvarez and Bob Brenner asked what he needed.

"They knew I had frustrations there," he said.

He said Kendrick asked him to write down things he wanted.

When the university presented a term sheet, Rodriguez said, the $4 million buyout concerned him.

He said he asked Mountaineer Athletic Club chief Whit Babcock about it.

"At that point is where I found out that Ken had first requested it," he said.

"It was my understanding that Ken was financing the bulk of the new terms in the agreement. I thought heck, if this is the guy that's doing it and he wants it, then I've got to think about it more."

Flaherty asked if Kendrick pledged $2.5 million to the West Virginia University Foundation. Rodriguez said yes.

Flaherty asked if he knew Kendrick could alter the pledge if he resigned. Rodriguez said he wasn't aware of that.

Flaherty asked if he was aware that after he left, Kendrick pulled the pledge. Rodriguez said, "No sir."

Flaherty asked what agent Brown said about the term sheet with the $4 million buyout. Rodriguez said, "He was against me signing it, I believe."

Flaherty asked what wife Rita Rodriguez told him. Rodriguez said, "I don't remember exactly but she had the same concerns I did."

Flaherty asked if he expected $4 million if the university fired him. Rodriguez said, "I didn't think about it because I didn't think that I was going to get fired."

Flaherty asked if anyone fraudulently induced him to sign the term sheet. Rodriguez said he understood that Kendrick demanded the $4 million buyout.

Flaherty asked if he called Kendrick. Rodriguez said, "No, I asked Whit Babcock."

Flaherty asked if he talked to Kendrick later. Rodriguez said he didn't remember the date but Kendrick told him he didn't insist on a $4 million buyout.

The deposition then focused on a two hour meeting in August 2007, after an annual ceremony blessing the football field.

"We talked about a lot of my issues and concerns with the program, some of the things that I was promised," Rodriguez said.

He said, "I remember specifically asking, are we capped out? Is this as far as you will let me take the program?"

He said he almost begged. "I thought it was my job to continue to ask for things to better the program so that our program could continue to get better," he said.

As the season opener approached, he said, he felt pressure to sign a contract. He said he told new WVU President Mike Garrison the buyout was unfair.

"That's the time when he said he didn't believe in buyouts and that he would reduce it anyway once he took office," Rodriguez said.

He said he was told many times to wait for the new administration. He said he was told, "Once they are in place, everything is going to be taken care of."

Flaherty asked if he talked to Gov. Joe Manchin. Rodriguez said yes. Flaherty asked if their relationship went back 20 years. Rodriguez said yes.

Rodriguez said Manchin called and said it wouldn't be good if he didn't sign.

He said Manchin told him he would have negative publicity. He said Manchin told him, "I think you should get it signed."

He said he and Garrison reviewed the contract Aug. 24, but he didn't sign it. After the meeting, he said, he talked to booster Mike Wilcox.

"He said, I think you can trust them," Rodriguez said. "I think these guys will be good for you."

Flaherty asked if Garrison said that if a dispute arose, they would split the difference.

"I don't know the exact words," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if he said split the difference or reduce it to two or what, but I was under the belief, as was others there, that that was the mind set."

Then the deposition turned sticky.

Flaherty asked, "Michigan agreed to pay all or any part of your liquidated damage clause with West Virginia?"

Rodriguez's attorney, Marvin Robon, objected and told Rodriguez not to answer.

Flaherty asked if anyone discussed holding him harmless or indemnifying him. Robon objected and told Rodriguez not to answer.

Flaherty asked if an agreement was in place to protect him from the liquidated damages clause. Robon objected and told Rodriguez not to answer.

Flaherty asked who brought in Robon. Rodriguez said Wilcox did.

Flaherty asked if Wilcox ever said the university breached the contract. Rodriguez said, "I know Mr. Brown did. I don't know if Mr. Wilcox did or not."

Flaherty asked if he could identify any written communication advising the university they were in breach of contract.

Rodriguez said, "I don't know if you have all the memos that Mike Brown had sent during the season regarding some of the promises," Rodriguez said. "I don't know where those are at. I know somebody's got to have them."

Flaherty said, "You never really considered whether West Virginia was or was not in breach of the employment agreement with you until you started talking to Michigan?"

Rodriguez said, "No. Mike Brown had alluded that to me several times."

Flaherty said, "Have you told Brown that, why didn't you tell me I had to do this in writing?"

Rodriguez said, "Did I? I should have."

Flaherty asked if he asserted a claim against Brown for giving him bad advice.

Rodriguez said, "We felt all the way along that West Virginia was going to fulfill their promises. I held out hope until Saturday night with Mike Garrison, president Garrison, at his house."

He said, "I implored with him about some of the things that were promised including the things that he had promised."

He said, "That night I asked specifically, tell me yes or no, and it was no to everything."

He said, "It was a completely different mentality and mind set than I had seen since president Garrison took office, and it shocked me."

He said, "He was talking almost to the point like I wasn't very intelligent and then all he said was, you've got a decision to make. Either stay or leave."

Flaherty asked if Garrison lied. Rodriguez said Garrison intended to keep his promises but it became a power struggle between Pastilong and Garrison.

"There was a battle going on there and I was kind of stuck in the middle," he said.

"There was a battle going on there and I was kind of stuck in the middle," he said.

Flaherty asked Rodriguez if he saw Robon's analogy in newspapers comparing the $4 million clause to slavery.

"Mr. Robon speaks for himself," Rodriguez said.

Flaherty said, "You don't believe you were enslaved with West Virginia University, do you?"

Rodriguez said, "I do believe in a way I was held hostage."

Flaherty said, "Held hostage at two million dollars a year?"

Rodriguez said, "The four million dollar buyout."

Flaherty said, "Living in a two million dollar house?"

Robon objected. "Argumentative," he said.

The university's suit and Rodriguez's countersuit lie before Monongalia Circuit Judge Robert Stone. He plans a status conference Tuesday, May 27.

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