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Published: Friday, 7/25/2008

Rodriguez hopes settlement puts controversy behind him

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CHICAGO - Rich Rodriguez said yesterday he reached a $4 million settlement with West Virginia earlier this month because "everybody wanted to get it done before the season" starts.

Rodriguez, now the football coach at Michigan, was being sued by his former employer over a disputed $4 million buyout clause in his contract there. He discussed his settlement for the first time publicly at yesterday's Big Ten media conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

The agreement - which calls for Rodriguez to pay West Virginia $1.5 million in three installments beginning in 2010 and UM to pay $2.5 million by the end of this month - was approved by West Virginia's board of governors July 9.

At the time, UM athletic director Bill Martin said the agreement put the lengthy, bitter, legal fight between Rodriguez and his former employer in the past.

As expected, the whole mess was again front and center for Rodriguez yesterday. And, as expected, he fielded the questions about the settlement with an eye toward putting the matter behind him.

"There are a lot of things I would like to talk about, but I want to move on," Rodriguez said. "That's one of the biggest reasons that everything got settled, because I think everybody wanted to move on. It's in the past.

"Was I disappointed in certain things? Sure I was. Disappointed in that maybe not all the things I thought were truthful had an opportunity to come out. Things I wanted to set the record straight [on] didn't have an opportunity to come out."

Rodriguez said he didn't want to be asked - or have his players asked - about a pending lawsuit before and after games and it was in UM's "best interest" for him to settle.

During the legal dispute, which began about two weeks after he agreed to leave West Virginia and join the Wolverines in December, accusations flew from all angles. It wasn't pretty, and yesterday Rodriguez was left to answer questions about being embarrassed and his reputation.

"The University of Michigan has done everything right from the first day forward," Rodriguez said. "I felt I was on the defensive a lot, unnecessarily at times. Again, that's in the past, and I don't think there's anybody that should be embarrassed about anything.

"It became so public, and that was the problem. It became so public on everything. It was like I was afraid to open up the paper anywhere and see what's next and what I had to refute. There were some tough lessons learned."

In addition to the lawsuit, Rodriguez also had to deal with the public relations nightmare of having a starting player transfer - to Ohio State, no less - and cite eroding family values as his reason for departure.

Add the Justin Boren problem and lawsuit together, and you come up with a potentially damaged reputation for Rodriguez.

"I've not changed who I am, but I never have," he said. "It just seems what was portrayed was changed. That was probably the most disappointing thing about it. I mean, what have I done wrong, image-wise?

"But if my reputation is damaged, that is upsetting because I just changed jobs. I've done things just like I've done them everywhere else."

Rodriguez's off-field struggles are not lost on his players.

Senior cornerback Morgan Trent said it was "sad that he has to go through some of this stuff."

"A lot of this he doesn't deserve," Trent said. "He had no bad intentions coming here. It's too bad because he's a good guy."

Senior defensive end Tim Jamison said Rodriguez never brought his personal problems with him to practice.

"The way he's handled it, I have the utmost respect for him," Jamison said. "When he comes in, it's strictly about football. I like that about him."

Strictly about football. Rodriguez surely likes the sound of that.



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