Arizona fires coach Rich Rodriguez amid misconduct allegations
Rodriguez was reportedly investigated during the 2017 season
Rich Rodriguez has been fired at Arizona, the school announced Tuesday night. Rodriguez himself confirmed his ouster shortly thereafter, explaining that he was informed via email that the Wildcats would be buying out his contract.
Earlier Tuesday, Dan Wolken of USA Today reported that Arizona was "weighing whether to fire" Rodriguez. The Wildcats lost four of their last five games this season, but the report indicated that an off-field allegation regarding workplace conduct would also a part of the university's decision.
"After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, President [Robert] Robbins and I feel it is in the best interest of the University of Arizona and our athletics department to go in a new direction," athletic director Dave Heeke said in a release.
In a letter sent to students, faculty and staff, Robins and Heeke explained "the decision is based on several factors, including the direction and climate of our football program."
Rodriguez, in a lengthy statement posted to his Twitter account, explained that a former administrative assistant threatened to file a $7.5 million lawsuit against Rodriguez alleging harassment. Furthermore, he said outside investigation by the school into workplace misconduct found no wrongdoing on the part of the former Arizona coach. He claimed that he fully cooperated with the investigation, which lasted 10 weeks and included the coach voluntarily submitting to and passing a polygraph test.
"Notably, the complainant refused to cooperate with the investigation," Rodriguez noted. "It was comforting to be reassured of what I already knew, the claims were baseless and false."
In the same statement, Rodriguez then admitted to "consensual extramarital affair with a woman who is not affiliated with the University" that he said was a "single truth" disclosed as part of the complaint. "I am not a perfect man, but the claims by my former assistant are simply not true and her demands for a financial settlement are outrageous," he added.
Here is how Robbins and Heeke broke the situation down.
In October 2017, the University's Office of Institutional Equity retained outside counsel to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Rodriguez, after a former employee in the Department of Athletics alleged that Mr. Rodriguez harassed her on multiple occasions. Like all University employees, Mr. Rodriguez is entitled to a fair investigation and due process and at no time has the University believed that Mr. Rodriguez posed any danger to a member of the community.
The law firm of Cohen Dowd Quigley was retained by the Office of Institutional Equity to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the allegations made by the former employee, and that investigation began in October. After her initial report to the University in October, the former employee retained counsel and declined multiple requests from the University to participate in the investigation into her allegations.
In addition, she was unwilling to turn over communications that she alleged provided support for her allegations and recently filed a notice of a financial claim against Mr. Rodriguez. The investigation, which concluded on December 28, 2017, found that the original specific harassment allegations against Mr. Rodriguez could not be substantiated based on the evidence and witnesses available to it.
However, Arizona Athletics did become aware of information, both before and during the investigation, which caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program. As a result, we have been reviewing the findings and deliberating our course of action. While this is a difficult decision, it is the right decision. And it is a decision that lives up to the core values of the University of Arizona.
Rodriguez, 54, had a 45-35 record in six seasons as the Wildcats coach, leading the team to five bowl games and one Pac-12 South title since arriving in Tucson. He was on Dennis Dodd's hot seat rankings to begin the 2017 season, though his status cooled due in large part to the emergence of quarterback Khalil Tate.
Arizona will pay Rodriguez the $6.28 million it owes him according to the "separation terms of his contract."
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