WVU Holds Firm

Of all the bizarre and public tactics used by former head coach Rich Rodriguez and his camp during his ongoing legal standoff with West Virginia University, the latest news might be the biggest head scratcher of all.

Rodriguez filed a letter of credit on Tuesday in U.S. District Court essentially stating that he would pay a buyout of up to $1.5 million for the remaining six years on the deal which he resigned from in mid-December. The contract Rodriguez agreed to in December in 2006 and ultimately signed this past August calls for a buyout of $4 million.

Thus, Tuesday's news raised many an eyebrow not only in the Mountain State, but inside college football and legal circles alike as word spread of the latest "act of good faith" made on Rodriguez's behalf.

"I've never seen (a letter of credit) as a filing in a case like this before," Charleston attorney Jeff Wakefield told BlueGoldNews.com on Wednesday evening. Wakefield, a 1981 graduate of the WVU College of Law, is representing his alma mater in the lawsuit. "I don't know why they've done that, or what their purpose is."

Maybe Rodriguez is simply auditioning for the role of the shady banker on NBC's hit game show "Deal or No Deal"? Not likely.

On the surface at least, the latest release from Camp Rod looks like nothing more than another hollow publicity stunt designed to make Rodriguez look like the good cop in the ongoing struggle with his former employer. Throughout the past month and a half, Rodriguez and his camp – notably agent Mike Brown – have repeatedly used the national media as a bully pulpit to paint the WVU administration in a negative light, leading some to believe that the former Mountaineer defensive back was left with no other choice than to walk away from his self-proclaimed "dream job" to take the reigns at traditionally-powerful Michigan.

In reality, Rodriguez has yet to factually prove anything contrary to what the contract states, a self-inflicted $4 million debt to his alma mater by virtue of breaking the agreement he signed less than six months ago. The release late last week of a letter from Rodriguez to WVU President Mike Garrison accusing the University of breaking a verbal agreement the coach alleges to have taken place around the same time he signed his new deal was anything but the self-described "bombshell" Brown had promised. The letter of credit made public on Tuesday certainly doesn't fit that bill either.

From the beginning of his separation with WVU, Rodriguez and Brown have made continued attempts to convince the court of public opinion that it is West Virginia – and not the former head coach – which shoulders the blame for his quick and controversial departure from Morgantown as the Mountaineers were beginning their preparations for the Fiesta Bowl.

Wakefield declined to comment specifically on the amount of publicity surrounding this case compared to others like it, other than to say that "it has certainly generated a lot of publicity."

The ultimate burden of proof, though, must come in real court, which for right now happens to be U.S. District Court based in Clarksburg. The next step in the legal process will likely come on Monday, when responses must be filed to the amended complaint as well as the motion to remand. If the latter is ruled in favor of WVU, the case would then move back to Monongalia County Circuit Court. Past that, according to Wakefield, there is no timeline for the rest of the case.

"There is no specific timeline for the case at this point," he said. "It's still very early."

Those words are not exactly music to the ears of the countless observers in West Virginia and elsewhere already tired of the dispute which is roughly just a month and a half old. One way to end the case quickly would be with an out of court settlement between the two sides. Unless the settlement includes Rodriguez paying the full $4 million – a compromise on his part about as likely as the former head coach being elected mayor of Morgantown – don't expect an agreement anytime soon.

"There are no settlement negotiations occurring," Wakefield said. "The amount of money which Mr. Rodriguez owes under the clear terms of the contract, which was in effect when he resigned as football coach, is $4 million."

In Thursday's edition of the Charleston Daily Mail, Wakefield reiterated that the only situation in which WVU would enter settlement negotiations with Rodriguez's representatives would involve a scenario in which Rodriguez paid the University the full $4 million. The compromise would only include "…the method and manner in which (Rodriguez) pays the $4 million," Wakefield told the paper.

The mudslinging between the two sides looks to have ceased for now, but West Virginia's goal remains the same: full recovery of the buyout included in Rodriguez's most recent agreement.


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