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Rich Rod speaks out

TUCSON –  Former U of A football coach Rich Rodriguez says he is angry about getting fired and frustrated about how university officials handled his dismissal.

In what he said was his first sit down interview since getting fired on Jan. 2, 2018, Rodriguez said he was informed of his dismissal by email.  “I was home with my family and so all of us were just floored with it, and the disappointment, not just because we thought we had a great team coming back, but just the way it all went down was certainly sad and disappointing.”

Rich Rod, as he is known, says after six seasons, the UA should have told him in person, not email. “Certainly, that’s not customary I think on any level but particularly at this level, and it was a shock. The type of disappointment and shock that happens when you get called from a reporter first, then you try to get a hold of somebody and then they say, ‘Well, check your email and you look at your email and….”

Rodriguez’  dismissal came after his administrative assistant filed a $7.5 million Notice Of Claim-that is a precursor to a lawsuit alleging, among other things that Rodriguez ran a hostile workplace and sexually harassed her. The law firm hired by UA to look into the claims concluded it could not substantiate them.

However, UA President Robert Robbins and Athletic Director Dave Heeke said they became aware of information which caused them to “be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program.”  Rodriguez main point of frustration is that the university has declined to release the law firm’s report to the public.

Rodriguez, whose daughter works at News 4 Tucson, said the investigation not being made public created a cloud over him.

“It was very frustrating because we were anxiously waiting for it to be finished and then when it got finished and cleared us, we like, ‘Ok, gosh, glad we got that over with’,  yet we were still let go and I think anybody would be disappointed.”

University spokesman Chris Sigurdson said UA “…typically does not release the reports on internal inquiries in order to protect witnesses and other individuals.”

Rodriguez did acknowledge around the time of his firing that he had an extramarital affair with a woman not affiliated with UA.  The 55-year old West Virginia native, saying, “I am not a perfect man,” apologized to his wife and two children, but denied harassing his former assistant, calling her demands for a multimillion-dollar settlement, “extortion.” He said he voluntary took a lie detector test and passed. The attorney for his former assistant did not return repeated calls and emails from News 4 Tucson.

Rodriguez said, “After the investigation came through and yet you still got let go, and we have not been able to say much about it and still can’t to some degree, but at the same time I can’t sit here and tell you that there hasn’t been a sense of frustration with this whole legal process and sometimes I feel there’s a false narrative that could be corrected easier had this information been able to have been made public.  I know my family and I felt a great sense of frustration because we thought there was a false narrative out there that could have been at least alleviated a little bit or corrected somewhat.

Rodriguez wants it to be known that after he was fired, when potential new employers called the UA to ask about him, the powers that be did not criticize him. “I wanted to thank President Robbins, and I think that even Dave Heeke got called, too, and Dave said some positive words.”

Rodriguez’ salary was $2.475 million. He received a $6.25 million payout. His contract was to run until 2020, so he could have coached his son Rhett, a UA sophomore quarterback,  until he graduated. Rodriguez got choked-up when talking about that. “I would have loved to have been able to be the head coach for my son,” he said.

Rodriguez was hired by the University of Mississippi last December as its offensive coordinator. Tomorrow night at 10, he talks about his regrets while at the U of A, and has a message for the city Tucson and the UA community.

Matthew Schwartz

Matthew Schwartz

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