Rodriguez Tenure At Arizona Comes To A Sudden End

Rodriguez Tenure At Arizona Comes To A Sudden End

Arizona and West Virginia are a couple thousand miles apart, but they’ve been linked for the past six years by Rich Rodriguez.

That link was broken Tuesday night when the University of Arizona’s administration suddenly fired Rodriguez.

Rich Rodriguez at WVU in 2005

“After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, President Robbins and I feel it is in the best interest of the University of Arizona and our athletics department to go in a new direction,” said UA athletic director Dave Heeke. “We’ll move through the coaching search in an effort to identify a head coach that will build a solid foundation for our program and create an identity of Arizona football that the University, Tucson and southern Arizona communities can be proud of. We’re excited about the future of our football program and we look forward to introducing our new head coach at the completion of the search process.”

Rodriguez is the subject of a $7.5 million claim, which is typically filed in advance of a lawsuit. In that claim a former employee alleged Rodriguez sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment. UA conducted an investigation into those allegations this past fall, and found they could not be substantiated.

In his own statement, Rodriguez, a 1985 WVU grad who was West Virginia’s head coach from 2001-07, denied the allegations.

“I was deeply disappointed to learn by email this evening that the University of Arizona is buying out my contract. My coaching staff and I were very excited about the trajectory of our young team, and looked forward to 2018 and beyond.

“This action comes on the heels of an outside investigation by the University into alleged workplace misconduct,” said Rodriguez’s statement released after his firing. “This investigation concerned a complaint by my former administrative assistant, who threatened a $7.5 million lawsuit alleging harassment.

“The University initiated a thorough outside investigation. I fully cooperated with the investigation, including voluntarily taking and passing a polygraph. The University determined that there was no truth to her accusations and found me innocent of any wrongdoing. This was a thorough investigation that lasted over 10 weeks and included multiple members of my current and former staff. Notably, the complainant refused to cooperate with the investigation. It was comforting to be reassured of what I already knew, the claims were baseless and false.

“Regrettably, the complaint included a single truth — in the past, I had a consensual extramarital affair with a woman who is not affiliated with the University. It was wrong, and I have apologized to my wife and family. I am still working incredibly hard to repair the bonds I’ve broken and regain the trust of my wife and children, whom I love dearly.

“I am not a perfect man, but the claims by my former assistant are simply not true and her demands for a financial settlement are outrageous. I am saddened that these accusations and investigation have caused my family additional stress.

“To my players, staff and supporters, it’s been an honor to lead and serve you. As I’m sure that you would expect to me to do, I will vigorously fight these fabricated and groundless claims,” concluded the statement.

No matter where the legal proceedings go from here, Rodriguez’s time with the Wildcats is over. He ends his six seasons at UA with a 43-35 record, including a 7-6 mark this past year. His best season at Arizona came in year three, when he posted a 10-4 record and captured the 2014 Pac-12 south division title.

Before arriving at UA, he was 15-22 in three seasons at Michigan (2008-10) and 60-26 in seven seasons at West Virginia (2001-07).

While Rodriguez’s firing is getting all the attention at the moment, the real sorrow should go to those in the Arizona football department whose employment is now on shaky ground. Unlike Rodriguez, none of them have a gold parachute with a $6.3 million buyout to protect them financially.

That group features a number of former Mountaineers who are part of the current Arizona staff, and find their future very much up in the air.

Jahmile Addae is the UA safeties coach, while Calvin Magee and Rod Smith are co-offensive coordinators. Other members of the administrative staff with WVU ties are Mike Parrish, Billy Kirelawich (son of the former Mountaineer assistant coach), Dusty Rutledge, Chris Allen and Parker Whiteman.

And that’s not to mention the saddest case of all. Garin Justin, a former WVU captain (2005), just arrived in Arizona a few weeks ago to take over as the Wildcats’ offensive line coach after two successful seasons coaching the offensive line at Florida Atlantic.

Now the future for Justice and his family, like all those involved with the Wildcat football program, is very unclear. UA will hire a new coach, who will likely want people of his own choosing on his staff. So none of the current Arizona assistant coaches or administrators are locked in to future employment.

Thus, while Rodriguez’s firing is very much in the forefront at the moment, think of all those who don’t have the same financial security who will also likely find themselves unemployed in the not too distant future.