The one-sentence resignation letter Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez submitted when he left West Virginia may cost him $4 million.
In December, the West Virginia University Board of Governors filed a lawsuit against Rodriguez in state court to collect on the buyout clause in his contract. On Jan. 16, Rodriguez’s lawyers successfully filed to move the suit to U.S. District Court.
Last Friday, West Virginia’s lawyers filed a motion to return the case to state court. Thomas Flaherty, an attorney representing West Virginia, told the Detroit Free Press the motion will not be settled for three to four weeks.
West Virginia’s eight-page complaint argues that Rodriguez should have to pay the $4 million buyout, as stipulated in his contract, because he terminated the agreement to take another coaching job. West Virginia also maintains that it was never in “material and substantial breach” of the contract. The $4 million clause was applicable until Aug. 31, 2008, when the buyout would have decreased to $2 million.
One of the major points of contention between West Virginia and Rodriguez is the overlap between when he accepted the Michigan job and resigned from his post at West Virginia.
The complaint claims Rodriguez or his associates contacted recruits on behalf of the University of Michigan beginning on Dec. 16 – before he officially resigned as the Mountaineers’ head coach.
Rodriguez’s official letter to West Virginia Athletic Director Ed Pastilong said his resignation was effective at midnight on the morning of Dec. 19.
Rodriguez was officially introduced as Michigan’s head coach on Dec. 17.
In a Jan. 17 teleconference, Rodriguez responded to the claims, saying he was “not astute to what is ‘officially resigned.’ “
“I would assume that once I accepted the job at Michigan, and told the team and told the staff, everybody that was there at our building, that I had resigned and accepted the job at Michigan, which was Sunday afternoon (Dec. 16), I was no longer the coach at West Virginia,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s cell phone records, obtained by the Charleston (W.V.) Daily Mail under freedom of information laws, show the coach contacted at least two Michigan football recruits the night of Dec. 16.
Rodriguez would not elaborate on why he shouldn’t have to pay the buyout, but had a definitive answer when asked if he would apologize, pay the $4 million and leave West Virginia behind.
“Apologize for what? That’s a subjective feeling, isn’t it?” Rodriguez said.
“I know there are feelings hurt. I said that before, told that to the team that I’m sorry the way things have worked out. But I changed jobs. This is America. Sometimes you change jobs.”