Coach Rodriguez: “Hello guys. I apologize for not actually talking earlier, because to be honest with you my whole thought process coming here was to move forward and talk about the future of Michigan football and move on in that regard. It has been kind of crazy all the things that it seems like maybe I need to talk to you all and answer some questions and all that to get everybody up to speed on what has been happening. Again, I apologize for not speaking earlier. I didn’t really feel like I needed to have a press conference, because I didn’t think, to be honest with you, that a whole lot of issues needed to be discussed but here we are. So if we can address a few things. I hope you can understand that there are a few things that I can't discuss that in particular may go directly that will factor in this lawsuit that West Virginia has filed against me. But I don’t have an attorney with me or my lawyers or anything like that. So I will try to be as helpful as I can and then we can move forward.”
Question: Two allegations out of West Virginia this week that you shredded documents and that you used your West Virginia cell phone to call Michigan recruits. Can you address each of those? Did you shred any documents and did you use that phone?
Coach Rodriguez: “Oh sure I shredded…everybody was, the secretaries were there, the staff members were there and it wasn’t files out of my office. It was files out of a closest… an unlocked closest that was next to the secretaries’ office, next to my office and most of it was football information, things that I have accumulated not just in the last seven years but maybe over the last 10 or 15 years that I had haven’t been thrown away. Not all of it was shredded. Some was shredded, some was ripped up. We were just trying to be as efficient as possible and save space and throw things away that I didn’t feel that I needed to bring with me. But all the things that were implied, the academic records…every coach had, the academic advisor had, the athletic department had….said I threw away pictures that had kids doing community service and I had no idea what they are talking about there. We had no pictures of community services or anything of that nature. The secretary had all the contact information. The operation assistant and the athletic department had all the scholarship information. There was an implication that I had all these secret files and I was throwing. That definitely not true. I don’t know where that came from or what the purpose of it, other than it was simply part of the smear campaign, almost like a political campaign that they could run against us. I don’t know. Information that was thrown away, all the coaches had, and the secretaries had. In fact, if they would have called Garrett Ford, the academic advisor for athletes, associate AD before they made the statement that they had no academic records, he would have told them that I have it all, which he did. All the academic counselors, if they had asked and even asked the secretary, my secretary, Lori Rice where is all this information at?”
Question: So there were some university documents but you felt comfortable that they were all documents that they had copies of?
Coach Rodriguez: “I don’t know what you define about university documents. There are football, as any coach would do if we play a game, I am going to take notes on the game, my own personal opinion on notes, performance and put it on file. Maybe from a game seven years ago, maybe from 10 years ago. Some of it I brought with me because that is part of my current game plan, part of my coaching philosophy that I have developed and changed. Those things that I brought with me. The things that were thrown away were completely useless to everybody, but I felt that I wanted to clean up my office. I didn’t want to have personal notes, things that I thought were easily accessible to people that shouldn’t be…whether it is my notes on a player or things like that were out there. I was just simply cleaning up.”
Question: How about the phone issue? Did you call Michigan recruits from a West Virginia cell phone?
Coach Rodriguez: “You know, I did not call a single… I don’t recall exactly a particular time, exactly how I made a call, but I never called a single Michigan recruit before I resigned as a coach at West Virginia.”
Question: Do you wish you coach that you had done this differently, leaving there?
Coach Rodriguez: “Meaning in what regard?”
Question: Had maybe not called (Terelle) Pryor before you told the team, had maybe talked to the AD face to face, maybe had done something to make less hard feelings on the way out there?
Coach Rodriguez: “I think there were going to be hard feelings irregardless of how I left. I talked to the staff. Everybody knew. There were reporters at the building of when I announced it to the team that I was resigning. There was obviously some communication issues and a lack of communication in several aspects of it. In my mind there would have been hard feelings any time that I would announce, whether I announced it earlier, later or had a press conference to announce it. There would have been hard feelings when I left West Virginia.”
Question: Just for clarification you said you didn’t call Michigan recruits before you resigned. Did you resign after the press conference in Michigan? Were there calls from the time that you had the Michigan job until you officially resigned from West Virginia?
Coach Rodriguez: “I don’t know what the official… again, this me not being I guess astute to what is officially resigned, but I would assume that once I accepted the job at Michigan and told the team and told the staff and everybody that was there at our building that I had resigned and accepted the job on Michigan, which was Sunday afternoon… I was no longer the coach at West Virginia.”
Question: So there were no calls after that point is that you are saying, right?
Coach Rodriguez: “No calls after that point to where. What are you asking?”
Question: Well you had said that you didn’t make any calls after you resigned from West Virginia on the West Virginia cell phone to Michigan recruits?
Coach Rodriguez: “No I didn’t say that. I did not call any Michigan recruits before I announced that I was resigning as coach of West Virginia.”
Question: The implication of some of the stories that we were reading out of West Virginia is that you are trying to do damage to that program. Is there any truth to that?
Coach Rodriguez: “No and that really hurts me. It really hurts me because first off, we put seven years of hard work and effort into building that program up. We recruited every one of those young men and all the things we tried to do positive. Whether it is the improve facilities, which I helped raise money or recruiting quality student/athletes, raising that program up, I want to see it continue. I watched the Fiesta Bowl like a proud father. My heart was coming out of my chest, they played so well. A lot of the players realized that because so many of them came over to me before they went to the bowl, and I got several calls and text messages from the players after the bowl. There are a lot of great people there. So no, I mean I think it is just the opposite of what you are saying. There seems to be a campaign to try to smear me. I have not said anything publically until recently and I just felt the need to defend all the false accusations and the things that are being said out there. It is like somebody said that I made 112 calls to a phone in Peterstown, Monroe County. I made seven calls in one day on that Saturday. I have no idea what you are talking about. Tell me the number. I didn’t make seven calls home that day. I have no idea what you are talking about. There are so many inaccuracies and so much false information out there, and this has been going on for three weeks, I didn’t respond to any of it, but it has just gotten ridiculous in the last couple of days.”
Question: How much do you attribute this to any legal matters that are out there yet and how much do the disappointment of the people back there over the fact you left?
Coach Rodriguez: “That is a good point. I don’t know. There is disappointment and I can understand that, and I know there is hard feeling because it is a small state and a program that was a source of pride. But my whole point is that the program is I think in great shape and will continue to be. One of the things that upsets me is that this campaign is not helping West Virginia’s program. You are trying to hurt Rich Rodriguez, but you are also hurting West Virginia’s program and those coaches and those players don’t deserve that. I want to be able to help. I would love for those guys to continue to have success, because doesn’t it make sense for me that West Virginia continue to have success, that I could say in a small way, I helped contribute to that because we built that program to that point. So it doesn’t make any sense for me to try to. Who is the one trying to do all the damage here? It hasn’t been my comment.”
Question: Have you talked to Bill Stewart at all this week?
Coach Rodriguez: “No I haven’t, and I haven’t talked to him since before the bowl game. I haven’t talked to anybody in the football program and the main reason is I have been trying to do my job here at Michigan.”
Question: You talk about staying above the fray coach. Was there a breaking point and were you starting to get questions from recruits, players and their parents and the like?
Coach Rodriguez: “Again, I almost hesitate to do this. There are so many inaccuracies and so many falsehoods and innuendos that are out there. At some point you get tired of getting beat up over stuff that is crazy. You read the thing about, I erased all the academic files. Then the next you read, ‘oh no, we have the academic files’. So the corrections are on page six and the lead story is on page 1. I am thinking, ‘okay you just let it pass because eventually people will realize that there is a different agenda why they are doing this.’ I just want everybody to move forward. I know there is a lawsuit out there that West Virginia sued me and that I have to respond to that, and my attorneys frankly have said, just let it go. As a coach and as a person, I hope you guys can appreciate it, that you can question their intelligence an say, ‘well that is not a very good play call’ or question their methods, ‘boy I don’t know why they run the spread offense or why they do this scheme,’ you know that stuff, but when you question an individuals integrity and character when I think it is completely unfounded… Obviously people will say, well you shouldn’t have left West Virginia in the manner that you did and I can understand that. But I never once said that I would never leave West Virginia. It was always my intent to stay there and if anyone doesn’t believe that, look at the way we were building our program. Also look at my house. I am in the process of remodeling my house in West Virginia. Would a person do that if he was thinking he was going to leave the school?”
Question: Has Bill Martin been supportive of you throughout this?
Coach Rodriguez: “Sure and why wouldn’t he be? I think quite frankly they’re probably surprised at some of the accusations and the innuendo that is out there as well as I am.”
Question: Without getting into the legal details, do you feel that you are not obligated to pay them the buyout?
Coach Rodriguez: “I don’t want to get into all the situations with that. I would like to share some things with ya’ll at a later time but at this point for obvious reasons there are a lot of legal issues that have to be discussed.”
Question: Do you think that maybe it would put this thing to rest if you would just apologize and pay the buyout?
Coach Rodriguez: “Apologize for what?”
Question: Maybe just for hurting their feelings on the way out? I mean a lot of this is obviously due to hurt feelings.
Coach Rodriguez: “I think that is a subjective feeling isn’t it if your feelings are hurt? I think I know their feelings are hurting. You know, I said that before. I told that to the team… that I am sorry with the way things have worked out. I changed jobs. This is America. It comes down to you change jobs, and I would hope at some point when emotions cool down that you can see the good things that the program has brought. You know the governor of the state (Joe Manchin) who I have known for a long time, said a few things that I had changed, that agents had changed me a few weeks back and I didn’t respond because I thought it was a little bit off base. So he called me on Christmas Day and talked to me on Christmas afternoon. I asked him, ‘why did you say those things?’ I said, ‘I have not changed.’ I said, ‘It kind of hurt me when you attacked me that way.’ He apologized and said, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t have said some things, emotions came out and that in the future maybe he could put things in a positive light and say some of the positive things that have happened over the last seven years.’ That was on Christmas Day, but I haven’t heard anything positive.”
Question: You said you think there is a smear campaign. Who do you think is behind it?
Coach Rodriguez: “I don’t know. I don’t know what the agenda is. I would like for everybody to move forward. There is obviously the legal issue with lawsuit that West Virginia sued me that I have to respond to. Those are players that I recruited and I want them to do well. There are a lot of great people in the state of West Virginia. There is a lot of great supporters of the program, tremendous supporters of that program and I want to wish them all well. I would like to be able to move on and focus on the future and not always have to answer some of these falsehoods that come out every day.”