Rodriguez, Michigan to pay $4 million to WVU

By Steve Korris | Jul 9, 2008

Rodriguez MORGANTOWN – Former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez and the University of Michigan will pay $4 million to WVU in an agreement announced July 9.






MORGANTOWN – Former West Virginia University football coach Rich Rodriguez and the University of Michigan will pay $4 million to WVU in an agreement announced July 9.

Rodriguez, now the coach at Michigan, and that school will pay the money over the next three years to end a high-profile lawsuit over whether Rodriguez broke his contract when he resigned in December.

According to a Michigan press release, Rodriguez will pay $1.5 million in three annual payments starting in January 2010. Michigan will pay the other $2.5 million by the end of this month. The school also will cover Rodriguez's legal fees.

"To help Rich focus on the challenges ahead, we have worked with him to resolve the dispute between him and West Virginia University over the terms of his buyout," Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin said. "Although he continues to disagree with the validity of the terms, Rich and the rest of us at Michigan felt that it would be best to get this distracting issue behind us."

Before the agreement was announced, it seemed that Rodriguez intended to drag down outgoing WVU president Mike Garrison with the weight of Heather Bresch's degree, the coach's deposition of Garrison shows.

Rodriguez's attorney, Marvin Robon of Maumee, Ohio, pounded Garrison all morning on June 12 with questions that kept turning toward Bresch.

At the end of the 10-hour deposition, Robon delivered more blows at the soft spot.

The tainted degree that the university awarded to Bresch, daughter of Gov. Joe Manchin, already had cost Garrison his job by the time Robon deposed him.

Rodriguez needs to undermine Garrison's credibility because he claims Garrison tricked him into signing a contract with a $4 million buyout clause last August.

Rodriguez resigned Dec. 19 to coach the University of Michigan. The West Virginia University Board of Governors sued him in Monongalia Circuit Court Dec. 27.

Rodriguez countersued, calling the buyout clause invalid and unenforceable.

At Garrison's deposition, Rodriguez showed up and started taking notes.

Garrison told Robon that former Gov. Bob Wise appointed him as secretary of tax and revenue when Wise took office in 2001. He said Wise hired him as chief of staff five months later.

He said in 2003, when Wise chose not to run for re-election amid the controversy over an admitted affair, Garrison resigned and joined the firm of Spilman Thomas and Battle, in the Charleston office.

"Tell us how you got into the lobbying business," Robon said.

"I just tried to serve client needs at the firm," Garrison said. "Clients had needs and the firm did some lobbying and I was asked to participate."

Robon read reports showing Garrison registered as lobbyist for West Virginia United Health Systems, West Virginia Media, Corotoman Inc., Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital, Alliance Resource Partners, and Platinum Properties.

Robon read that Garrison registered for Heather M. Bresch of Mylan Laboratories, and he asked when Garrison first met Heather Bresch.

"I'm not sure of the exact year," Garrison said.

Robon said, "Did you go to school together?" Garrison said, "Went to high school together."

Robon said, "Did you date her?" Garrison said, "I did not."

Robon asked how he registered her as a client. Garrison said the firm had already worked with Mylan and they asked him to get involved with pharmaceutical issues coming before the legislature's 2004 session.

A later report showed Leah Summers as client at Mylan rather than Bresch, and Robon asked who he contacted most.

"Initially I did some work with Heather but really, after my first year I worked primarily with Leah Summers," Garrison said.

Robon asked his salary, and Garrison said $255,000 a year.

Robon asked if he had an inside track on the president's job, as chair of the Higher Education Policy Commission.

Garrison said no. He said the board of governors and a search committee made the decision, not the policy commission.

Robon asked if he put himself up for the job. Garrison said he did not.

Robon asked which members of the board had financial interest in any companies he represented as lobbyist in 2006.

Garrison said Parry Petroplus was a partner in Platinum Properties.

"What about Mylan Laboartories," Robon said. "Do you have any ownership interest in that company?" Garrison said he didn't.

Robon asked how often he saw Bresch. Garrison said once or twice a year.

When Robon changed the subject to meetings with Rodriguez advisers last summer, Garrison volunteered a distinct recollection of agent Mike Brown.

"Mr. Brown was very direct about his intentions or his involvement with coach Rodriguez as related to the Alabama head coaching job," Garrison said.

He said Brown surprised him by calling the coach Product Rodriguez.

"He wanted me to be aware that he would continue to, as he put it, shop the product on the market," Garrison said.

Robon said, "And what were you asking of him?"

Garrison said, "I wasn't asking nothing of him. It was a courtesy hello."

He said he told Brown that Rodriguez was perfect for West Virginia University and there was a lot of value in coaching at his alma mater.

"He specifically disagreed very strongly," Garrison said.

"Mr. Brown conveyed to me that he did not care about the ties between Mr. Rodriguez and his home school, the feelings that people had for the institution," he said.

Robon asked if Rodriguez, at a meeting Aug. 24, was reluctant to execute a contract.

"He appeared to be, at different times during the meeting," Garrison said.

Robon said Athletic Director Ed Pastilong wasn't there, and he asked if Pastilong was reluctant to capitulate to Rodriguez's requests.

Garrison asked what requests he meant.

"He wanted a Web site," Robon said. "He wanted free textbooks for his students in the athletic department. He wanted free passes for high school coaches. He wanted control of the sidelines.

"Those types of things that he was asking for that were not in the term sheet."

Garrison said, "Yeah, they weren't in any agreement."

Robon asked if he said he didn't believe in buyouts. Garrison said at some point he told Rodriguez the university should look at other options.

Robon asked if he indicated that in a dispute, lawyers would split the difference.

Garrison said, "I did not say that."

Robon asked what happened Dec. 15, when Rodriguez came to his house.

"It was a rainy and pretty windy night and we sat down and he appeared to me to be very distraught," Garrison said. "He said he wanted me to make it easy on him to stay."

He said, "I indicated to him that I knew he felt like he had a tough decision and that I was surprised to hear about it on the news."

Robon asked if he yelled. Garrison said, "There was one point in the conversation when I did become aggravated."

He said Rodriguez told him the fans were down on him since the Pittsburgh loss.

"He didn't think the place was necessarily any more special than any place else and I was angry about that," Garrison said. "I'm sure he was angry about his feelings."

Robon asked if Rodriguez ever suggested Gov. Manchin should keep his nose out of the football program. Garrison said he suggested something like that.

Robon asked if he communicated that to the governor. Garrison said, "I didn't feel like I needed to."

At 5:30 p.m., nine hours into the deposition, Robon gave Garrison a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article about Bresch.

Robon said, "When did she first contact you relative to getting an MBA certificate?"

Garrison said, "She never contacted me relative to getting an MBA certificate."

He said she told him she was receiving calls from the media.

"She wanted some clarity because she believed that she had earned her EMBA," he said.

Robon said, "Have you been interviewed by any law enforcement officials concerning the Bresch case?"

Garrison said no.

"Have you ever testified in front of the grand jury?" Robon asked.

Garrison said, "Absolutely not."

Robon asked if he knew anyone from the university who testified before the grand jury.

Garrison said, "I do not and I think your question presumes that there is in fact a grand jury impaneled."

Robon asked if negative media attention with regard to Bresch led him to give notice that he would no longer be president as of Sept. 1.

Garrison said continual discussion was detrimental for the university.

"I was the one individual that could stop that discussion and allow us to begin the discussion again about all the great things that happen at WVU," he said.

Robon asked if it was fair to say he would do Bresch a favor if he could.

"That is not fair to say," Garrison said. "I do not agree in any way with your suggestion that I would attempt to do her a favor in this matter."

Robon asked if there was a movement in the Legislature to change the membership of the board of governors.

Garrison said he didn't know. "It's not something I would be involved with," he said

When Robon finished questioning Garrison, university counsel Robert P. Fitzsimmons of Wheeling asked Robon if he represented that a grand jury was impaneled.

"No," Robon said. "I just wanted to know if there was."

Fitzsimmons said, "There is absolutely no evidence of any grand jury."

Lead university counsel Thomas Flaherty of Charleston asked Garrison, "Did you at any time ask anyone, either directly or indirectly, to award Heather Bresch a degree?"

Garrison said, "I did not."

Flaherty said, "Mr. Rodriguez has taken a great deal of notes. We ask you to preserve those notes and counsel, take possession of those notes and preserve them."

For Rodriguez, Sean McGinley of Charleston said he would take it under advisement.

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