Rodriguez Files Letter of Credit in Court

By: AP
By: AP

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia says Rich Rodriguez owes $4 million for breaking his contract and moving on to Michigan. At most, Rodriguez countered Tuesday, it's $1.5 million.
Ultimately, a judge will decide who's right.
In a move his legal team calls a gesture of good faith, not an offer to settle, the former WVU football coach filed a $1.5 million letter of credit with the U.S. District Court in Clarksburg.
Rodriguez and his attorneys claim that's the maximum he could owe under his interpretation of the contract -- an amount spelled out in a "maximum liquidated damages provision" that Rodriguez says was in effect when he resigned Dec. 18.
WVU attorney Jeff Wakefield, however, says the contract is clear: "The amount owed by Mr. Rodriguez under the terms of the contract in effect at the time of his resignation is $4 million."
Nor are the two sides engaged in discussions to settle, Wakefield said.
The letter of credit, good for 90 days, was submitted "in the spirit of compromise and as an act of good faith" to assure WVU he will pay up if the court orders an award, the filing said.
"Coach Rodriguez is a responsible person," his agent Mike Brown said in a statement. "This is a good faith effort to move the process and communication lines forward so all parties can concentrate on their future endeavors."
Rodriguez attorney Marv Robon told The Associated Press his client has a strong case, but the negative publicity surrounding him and both universities prompted a public declaration that he won't dodge any legal obligations.
"We decided we want to show the court, more than anybody else, that we are acting responsibly, that we are acting in good faith," Robon said. "We're not saying we owe it. We're trying to say that Rich is a very honorable man, and he and (wife) Rita will pay any obligations that anyone finds they're due."
Rodriguez claimed WVU failed to honor verbal promises, including that his buyout might be eliminated. WVU denied such a promise was made, and sued Rodriguez for breach of contract Dec. 27.
The resignation, which came a year after Rodriguez pledged to remain in West Virginia for as long as the state would have him, touched off a bitter and ongoing public dispute in which each side has accused the other of breaching terms of the contract.
The gradual disintegration of the relationship between Rodriguez and the WVU athletic department was documented in a series of e-mails written over a five-month period and released to the AP under the West Virginia Freedom of Information Act.
They show Brown fighting to get his client more operational and marketing control over the football program. They also show Brown threatening to take his client elsewhere as early as mid-November.
Robon said the courts will decide which provisions of Rodriguez's contract were in effect at the time he quit and how much, if anything, he should pay WVU.
For WVU to win the full $4 million, he said, Rodriguez would have to lose every element of the arguments he will make when his official response to the lawsuit is filed. The deadline is Feb. 4.
"The court would have to find there were no promises made, that the university didn't breach the promises, that the coach didn't rely on them," he said. "That's not likely to happen."
It's possible, Robon argued, the court could find that Rodriguez was the party most harmed and therefore entitled to damages.


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