Rodriguez, WVU reach $4 million buyout settlement
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At the urging of University of Michigan officials, Wolverines football coach Rich Rodriguez reached a settlement late yesterday to pay his former employer, West Virginia University, the $4 million buyout at issue during the past 6 1/2 months in a lawsuit likened to a messy divorce.
Mr. Rodriguez will pay $1.5 million over a three-year span that begins in two-and-a-half years, with $500,000 due at the end of each 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Michigan will pay $2.5 million immediately, and additionally is expected to pick up Mr. Rodriguez's legal fees. West Virginia's legal fees will be billed to university officials later, but Charleston-based Tom Flaherty, whose firm represented the WVU Board of Governors and the university, said this morning, "I believe it will be reasonable."
Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin announced in a news release shortly after noon today:
"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.
"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."
Mr. Martin said Michigan's part of the settlement would come from the athletic department's reserve funds, "annual operational surpluses from such sources as sponsorships, licenses, and media rights payments."
Simultaneously, the WVU Board of Governors announced that it had approved the settlement.
"The key decision-makers at the university were intimately involved in the process, including President [Mike] Garrison, Chief of Staff [Craig] Walker and General Counsel [Alex] Macia. The three of them worked tirelessly to get this done," Mr. Flaherty said.
There had been ongoing discussions between representatives from both sides, what with football camp set to open in a month. Mr. Flaherty said Mr. Rodriguez's team made an "overture" before the early-June batch of depositions involving Mr. Garrison and outgoing Board of Governor member Steve Farmer, but "that was rejected without a counter [offer] because it was out of the question."
He added that Mr. Rodriguez's Charleston-based lawyer, Sean McGinley, called him Monday with "a very serious, good-faith effort to resolve the case," and that the two lawyers met Monday and Tuesday nights with a court-ordered mediator, Frank Fragale of Charleston, to complete the settlement.
Mr. Flaherty said one of the first congratulatory calls he received this morning was from West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, whom, he added, had no role in the settlement.
Mr. Rodriguez announced in December that he was leaving WVU, following the University of Pittsburgh's 13-9 victory in the annual Backyard Brawl between the two schools. That loss knocked WVU out of a potential matchup with Ohio State University for college football's national championship.
First Published July 9, 2008 9:22 am