Tactics change in case

Rodriguez offers hint of compromise

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Rich Rodriguez admitted yesterday through his attorneys that he must pay a buyout to his former employers. The unsettled question: How much of one?

Rodriguez's attorneys, acknowledging their client owes some sort of damages to Mountaineers officials, put up a $1.5 million letter of credit in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg, W.Va.

It is a document with a 90-day expiration date that essentially says if a West Virginia University representative came to the Bank of Ann Arbor in Ann Arbor, Mich., by April 27 with a certified copy of the letter of credit and a court order obligating the former Mountaineers coach to pay any such buyout, this person walks out the door with the money.

University lawyers reiterated that they want more -- namely the $4 million buyout for the remaining six years as stipulated in the contract extension he signed last August.

Rodriguez's legal team plans to dispute that agreement. They maintain that a previous buyout agreement, signed in 2006, is in effect, calling for $1.5 million. The university is going by the latest contract extension, signed in August 2007, and says it is due a payment of $1.33 million toward the $4 million buyout.

"Our position is this: The amount owed by Mr. Rodriguez, under the clear terms by the contract under effect at the time of his resignation, is $4 million," university attorney Jeff Wakefield said. "The $4 million needs to be paid."

From the four-page filing yesterday -- the two-page notice about the credit pledge being "in the spirit of compromise," a legal cover letter and a guarantee letter from the bank -- Rodriguez's side appeared amenable to negotiations.

"This is a good faith effort to move the process and communication lines forward so all parties can concentrate on their future endeavors," Rodriguez's lawyers and agent said in a statement yesterday.

Asked if the university was inclined to negotiate, Wakefield declined comment.

Former Mountaineers basketball coach John Beilein, who likewise left for Michigan, successfully reduced his buyout to $1.5 million from $2.5 million last year.

Coincidentally, his attorney, Bob Fitzsimmons of Wheeling, W.Va., was hired to help represent the university in the Rodriguez case.

Rodriguez's letter of credit was drafted through the Ann Arbor, Mich., bank founded by current Michigan athletic director Bill Martin, who hired Rodriguez last month. The new Wolverines coach reportedly was promised a no-interest loan to help pay off his West Virginia buyout, although Wakefield noted that the letter of credit lists Rodriguez on it and the university -- as with Beilein, who pays through the WVU Foundation -- will request that payments come directly from him.

The Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail reported yesterday that, of the $1,733,749.20 Rodriguez made this past season, $920,192.45 was already paid before Mountaineers officials sent him an additional $287,758.28 in owed incentives and monies Jan. 19.

Rodriguez's 2007 incentives and owed monies included, before taxes: $75,000 each for a Bowl Championship Series berth and Big East title; $20,000 for selling a minimum of 35,000 season tickets; $15,000 for a Top 25 final ranking; $120,448.53 for camps; $69,615.40 for the value of annual leave he would receive based on his salary, and $325 for employment bonus time. The university also donated $286,975 into his retirement plan under terms of his last contract extension.


Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1724.


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