Back And Forth

The contentious nature of the players on Team Rich Rodriguez continues to be one of the highlights of the $4 million buyout suit between the Michigan coach and his former employer, West Virginia University.

Of course, adversaries in any suit wouldn't be expected to be friendly and laugh through court procedings or depositions, but the back and forth sniping in this case have set a bit of an ugly tone from the outset. Most of that has come from the side of Team Rodriguez, which, without any significant evidence to back its case, is using any means available to cloud the issue.

That's again apparent in the just-released deposition of Rodriguez agent Mike Brown, who from the very first does his best to gum up the works. When asked, in the opening question, what business relationships he currently holds with Rodriguez, Brown responds, "Can you define what business relationships are?" When WVU counsel Robert Fitzsimmons asks, likely with a degree of disbelief, if he doesn't know what it means, Brown finally responds in the affirmative and proceeds to answer the question.

The opening back and forth set the tone -- Brown is going to stonewall, obfuscate and do everything within his power to create a smokescreen. Again, that's to be expected to some degree, but Brown, who ends up admitting that he did voiceovers for a betting service and depends on websites and word-of-mouth to develop his representation skills, raises it to new heights. There are dozens of examples, many revealing the unconventional manner in which Brown became an agent (or "representative" as he prefers) for college and professional coaches.

Taking his cue from Rodriguez attorney Marvin Robon, who appears to be about as prepared for deposition work as Jessica Simpson is for a job at NASA, Brown ducks and dodges to the best of his ability. Robon is also a participant in this, at multiple points earning admonishments from Fitzsimmons for coaching Brown in his answers. Robon even object to the use of the term "client" when referring to the relationship between Brown and Rodriguez, likening that something "used by beauty salons".

The byplay continues for all 558 pages of the deposition, but after reading it all, two things become apparent:

1) Team Rodriguez has very little, if any, evidence to back their claim. Could that change when WVU president Mike Garrison is deposed? Perhaps, but it seems unlikely.

2) The quality and level of WVU's representation in this case far exceeds that of Team Rodriguez, both in preparedness and execution. And doesn't it seem odd that a coach that requires so much in the way of execution from his players doesn't do so in that of his agents and attorneys?

If the pattern continues in future depositions and finally in a trial, it's clear that the battle lines have been drawn. West Virginia University isn't backing down, and is not going to settle. And Team Rodriguez, without any smoking guns, bombshells or other weighty evidence, will have to try other tactics in order to win the day.

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