From the September issue of the Ann Arbor Observer. In the article titled ‘WVU versus Rodriguez’, author James Militzer discussed the buy-out and Rodriguez’s pursuit of a settlement. Militzer contacted West Virginia legal counsel Thomas Flaherty who claims that that Rich Rod, Bill Martin and perhaps even Mary Sue Coleman negotiated a cap on Rodriguez’s exposure to the WVU buy-out during their meeting in Toledo last December. The terms: Michigan would cover up to the $2.5 million (which of course U-M eventually ended up paying). And Flaherty claims the the school and administration have tried to hide the deal.
It’s not available online so I requested and was granted permission to publish an excerpt. As an aside, I was interviewed for the article that’s how I knew it was coming out, I don’t get The Observer at home:
..Thomas Flaherty, lead counsel for WVU, says the U-M appears to have cut a deal with Rodriguez at the time he was hired.
“We’ve seen an email that went from [Rodriguez’s] financial advisor, Mike Wilcox, to athletic director Martin on December fifteenth, 2007, confirming a conversation they’d had earlier that day,” he says. “I believe it was cc’ed to Mary Sue Coleman. It said that the liquidated damages clause with West Virginia was a huge issue, and that the U of M had agreed that they were going to be responsible for I think it was seventy-five percent of the buyout, up to 2.5 million dollars.” The email was sent one day after the Toledo meeting that led to Rodriguez’s hiring.
Rodriguez’s lawyers prevented him from answering Flaherty’s questions about the U-M’s role in the buyout. And according to Flaherty, the university went to great lengths to keep that information concealed: “The U of M kept putting restrictions on the deposition of athletic director Martin, and steadfastly said president Coleman wasn’t involved in the process, when in fact she was at the meeting back in December. We had issued Freedom of Information Act requests for documents regarding whether or not anyone had agreed to indemnify coach Rodriguez for all or part of the four million. The U of M said they didn’t have any documents, when in fact we saw the email that Wilcox had sent. Whether the university deleted theirs or destroyed it, I don’t know, but they certainly didn’t produce it.”
So if true, what does all this mean? It’s not shocker to me-I assumed something like this took place up front as there’s no way Rodriguez would assume the full risk of the buy-out. I’m not sure why Martin or the school don’t want to come out say that this went down, perhaps Martin didn’t offer a similar deal to Beilein, or perhaps Coleman and Martin aren’t authorized to make such a deal without approval of the regents – don’t know.
A few writers (including Militzer and Michael Rosenberg) suggest that Rodriguez and his legal team were the ones that screwed this up by stubbornly pursuing the settlement without the consent of U-M officials (up to the point where Coleman and Martin were to be deposed). This agreement shows that U-M definitely had a stake in the size of the final settlement with WVU, as they were basically paying three quarters of the final number. Martin would save $250,000 if the buyout was reduced to $3M. I’m still not convinced that this is solely on Rodriguez and that U-M legal or administration wasn’t involved at some level.
Let’s say Michigan wanted no part of this legal process and wanted to end this back in December. Maybe that means Rich Rod was foolish and stubborn as a few writers have suggested. Given that Rodriguez’s exposure was limited, doesn’t this lend credence to RR’s side of the story – that he truly felt he was wronged by WVU and wanted to fight it?