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WVU lawyers grill Rodriguez's agent



As the legal wrangling in the ultra-contentious lawsuit between Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez and his former employer West Virginia University continued, yesterday the field of play shifted to a Toledo-area hotel.

There, the legal team for the Mountaineers questioned Mike Brown, the agent who represents Rodriguez, in a marathon deposition that lasted from 9 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.

Brown said last night that he preferred not to comment on the myriad issues covered in the deposition until after his legal counsel had an opportunity to review the transcript from the session.

The proceedings had been scheduled to take place in the Maumee Arrowhead Park law offices of Barkan & Robon, but the attorneys for West Virginia had the deposition moved to a conference room at a hotel off Airport Highway, near I-475. Marvin A. Robon, a partner in the Maumee-based firm, represents Rodriguez in the suit.

Rodriguez resigned from his West Virginia post in December after a highly successful seven-year run with the Mountaineers. West Virginia University sued Rodriguez later that month, demanding payment in full of a disputed $4 million buyout clause in his contract.

Over the past five months, a broad, bitter, and very public feud has played out between the two parties, complete with charges, counter-charges, and accusations of lying, racism, shattered promises, shredded documents, and even the alleged irregularities in the awarding of a postgraduate degree to the daughter of the West Virginia governor.

Throughout the ordeal,

Rodriguez has contended that he signed the West Virginia contract under false pretenses and that certain oral commitments made by the West Virginia administration at the time he entered into the agreement were not met, including a promised reduction or removal of the buyout clause. West Virginia officials have denied those claims.

Rodriguez said in an exclusive interview with The Blade in mid-January that both he and his family had been the victim of lies, harassment, and slanderous attacks since he left West Virginia.

"They don't care what the truth is, they just want to smear Rich Rodriguez," he said at the time. Rodriguez, a native of West Virginia and a former player with the Mountaineers, led West Virginia to four Big East Conference championships in his seven seasons as head coach.

WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong and Rodriguez have already been deposed. Earlier in the case, Judge Robert Stone of West Virginia's Monongalia County Circuit Court granted a request by the university's lawyers that all of the depositions be held in private, with the judge saying the contesting parties would need a stadium to accommodate the crowd if the proceedings went public.

Rodriguez was deposed last month at a hotel near the Detroit airport, and the transcript of that session has not yet been released. Pastilong's deposition took place in the Morgantown, W.Va., law office of Tom Flaherty, who is one of the lawyers representing WVU in the matter.

Pastilong's deposition produced about 200 pages of testimony, and in the transcript from that session, Pastilong said he was not present when Rodriguez signed his contract last summer. Rodriguez contends that promises made to him in that meeting by West Virginia president Mike Garrison and his chief of staff Craig Walker consisted of an end-around maneuver that excluded Pastilong.

Several more West Virginia officials are expected to be deposed in the case by the lawyers representing Rodriguez, while the WVU legal team has indicated it intends to depose Rita Rodriguez, the coach's wife, and Toledo businessman Mike Wilcox, a financial adviser to Rodriguez.

Michigan men's basketball coach John Beilien, another former West Virginia head coach, recently submitted the first of five approximately $300,000 payments of his buyout to the Mountaineers. Beilien left West Virginia a year ago, and although his contract at the time called for a buyout of $2.5 million, he contested that amount, and the parties eventually agreed on a figure of $1.5 million.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette contributed to this report.

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