Rodriguez stuck in past UM coach still explaining


ANN ARBOR - Rich Rodriguez wanted to focus on the future when he left West Virginia to coach Michigan's football team.

A month later, Rodriguez was compelled to talk about the past.

"There seems to be a campaign to try to smear me," Rodriguez said yesterday during a hastily scheduled conference call after talking to The Blade in an exclusive interview Wednesday night. "I haven't said anything until recently, when I felt I needed to defend all the false accusations.

"It has just gotten ridiculous over the last couple of days."

An investigation into missing files from Rodriguez's former office revealed the academic records of West Virginia football players are secure after a newspaper report raised questions about missing paperwork.

"There's so many inaccuracies and falsehood and innuendo, at some point, you get tired of getting beat up," he said. "It was that I erased academic files, then the next day, 'Oh no, that didn't happen.' The corrections are on page six and the lead story is on page one."

Rodriguez said he only removed personal papers, such as notes about players or his game plans."There was an implication that I had all these secret files and I was throwing them away, but it's simply not true," Rodriguez said.

The West Virginia native and former Mountaineer player expected hard feelings when he left to lead the Wolverines, but he has been disappointed by the scope of the resentment.

"I know there is disappointment and hard feelings because it's a small state and the program is a source of great pride, but this campaign is not helping West Virginia's program," he said. "You're trying to hurt Rich Rodriguez, but you're hurting West Virginia."

West Virginia has sued him to collect on a $4 million buyout clause in his contract. On Wednesday, the case was transferred from Monongalia County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in Clarksburg.

The court filing indicated Rodriguez had established residency in Michigan by the time the lawsuit was filed.

"We're perfectly comfortable and happy to litigate this case in any court," said Thomas Flaherty, a Charleston attorney representing the university. "This is not unanticipated."

The move gives Rodriguez five extra days, until next Wednesday, to file a response to the lawsuit. The initial deadline was today. The jurisdiction move also means any appeals would be filed through the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., instead of the state Supreme Court.

"I changed jobs. This is America, and sometimes you change jobs," Rodriguez said. "I would hope that at some point when emotions cool down, that you can see the good things."

Rodriguez also addressed questions about another story in the Charleston Daily Mail, which reported that West Virginia officials were concerned Rodriguez contacted Michigan recruits before he resigned as Mountaineers coach.

The newspaper also reported Rodriguez's West Virginia cell phone records show he called two Michigan recruits and possibly a third from his WVU-issued phone on Dec. 16 after he told the Mountaineers players he was going to Michigan. He was introduced at Michigan the next day.

During the conference call, Rodriguez insisted he did not contact any Michigan recruits while he was still employed by West Virginia.

Last month, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin blamed the involvement of what he termed "high-priced agents" for changing Rodriguez as a person.

Rodriguez said Manchin has called him to apologize.

"I said, 'Why did you say those things? It kind of hurt me,'•" Rodriguez recalled. "He apologized and said, 'Maybe I shouldn't have said some things.' He said in the future, he could put things in a positive light.

"That was on Christmas, but I haven't heard anything."