The disintegration of the relationship between West Virginia University and football coach Rich Rodriguez began months before Michigan offered him a job, according to e-mails obtained by The Associated Press.
The following are chronological excerpts of key exchanges between Aug. 1 and Dec. 13, 2007, involving Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown, his financial adviser, Mike Wilcox, WVU President Mike Garrison and Garrison's chief of staff, Craig Walker. The e-mails refer to WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, former assistant athletic director Whit Babcock, assistant athletic director Russ Sharp, Gov. Joe Manchin and Rodriguez's wife, Rita.
Though Rodriguez had agreed to a contract extension in December 2006, he did not sign the document until Aug. 24, 2007.
Brown e-mails Walker about possibly delaying the contract signing until Sept. 1, when Garrison assumes the presidency.
"Rich said he told you last night about the call from the governor. I am sure you have figured it out that there is a chain of command issue at WVU. Pastilong is talking directly to the governor and probably BOG (Board of Governors) members. How else after the conversation Monday nite, when Rich mentioned the continued interference by the governor and BOG, would the governor call the next day kissing up to Rich? I know you, Mike Garrison and Mike Wilcox did not call the governor.
"Also if you were to ask Whit Babcock why he was leaving he would say 2 words, 'Ed Pastilong.' Rich was promised on December 8, 2007 as part of agreeing to the term sheet, Mike Parsons interaction, tactical and strategic decisions affecting football would be reduced and Whit Babcock's role in the AD would be increased. Whit's leaving not only affects WVU, but is a result of an unfulfilled verbal promise made to Rich."
Babcock left WVU last summer and is now senior associate director of athletics at the University of Missouri.
Walker tells Wilcox work on the deferred compensation request is "coming along well" and notes that Hardesty has ceded operational control to Garrison. Wilcox responds he will "do everything possible to bring Rich together with the university, get back on track and to gain resolution on everything so that the contract can be signed as soon as humanly possible."
Wilcox recaps the Aug. 24 meeting to address outstanding issues, including "the culture change at WVU, not only in the athletic department throughout the campus."
"Rich questioned why it's so hard to get things done. He's been here for seven years and he'd really like to 'build the program to last.' Mike and Craig told Rich that whenever Rich felt the athletic director was not responding to Rich's request in a timely manner, or was in disagreement with Rich, that Rich was to contact Craig Walker."
The e-mail said Rodriguez had no complaints about the amount of his compensation or the longevity of his contract, but "he has issues with the operations of the football program, his need for total control for the football program and 'fairness."'
Rodriguez also complained that while he founded the 1100 Club in 2001 to raise money for private air travel, he did not control the fund.
"Last week he asked someone in the department what the balance in this fund was. Rich thought there'd be about $350,000, but this person responded it was only $150,000. Rich asked to look at expenses taken out and was told that they were for 'recruiting and related expenses.' Apparently, Russ (Sharp) told him that they were 'up against the wall' and frankly, this shouldn't be Rich's concern."
Brown complains to Walker that the athletic department released the financial terms of Rodriguez's new contract.
"You, Rich and I agreed in Rich's office we did not want any of the terms released and that it would take months for someone to get a copy of the contract through the FOI act. I am very disappointed that the AD violated an understanding we had."
Brown indicates frustration that progress has not been made more quickly on unresolved issues and asks for a meeting in December.
"Why is this important? There is a projected opening at Texas A&M this year and Florida State next year. Rich's name is being mentioned heavily.
"If presented with any of those opportunities, I believe Rich would have to weigh heavily the progress made in those issues he raised this summer and of revenue stream initiatives; for example we agreed to delay discussion on the website until the bids were received for the network with the thoughts the winning bidder may include a T&C excluding a coach's website. Then 200-300k of the increased revenue from the network could be directed towards the assistant coach's budget versus the revenue from a website. I am hearing Texas A&M is going to increase the assistant coach's budget to $2.6M with coordinators making 300k and assistants 250k."
Walker forwards Brown's e-mail to Wilcox and says he doesn't intend to respond.
Walker tells Wilcox, "I am not sure of the benefit of meeting yet again unless we have specifics from Rich. We understand the prior list -- additional GAs, books, stadium signs, etc., but, for instance, he indicated to me that the salaries for the assistant coaches were of greatest concern to him. What is the number that is needed for the assistant coaches to get them to a point that is competitive in Rich's eyes?
"Mike has reached out to Rich several times during the season to indicate his sincere support of Rich and the program.
"Since our initial meetings, I believe that we have made progress. The inclusion of the deferred compensation in his contract provides significant financial and tax benefits to Rich. The sideline control issue was resolved prior to the season and football is indeed in control of the sidelines. We have arranged for the recruit seating at home basketball games as per Rich's request. Rita was provided an all-access pass and accommodations were provided at the end of the season for the football family's seating at the home games. Other issues are still in the process of research and review and have not been put aside or forgotten.
"Since our initial meeting in the summer through today, the president remains totally committed to working towards all reasonable requests to improve the program. But at this point, another session to bring up the same issues will just not be productive for anyone."
Rodriguez submits one sentence resignation letter to Pastilong: "I am informing you my resignation date as Head Football Coach at West Virginia University effective 12:00 a.m. December 19, 2007."