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Arizona fires football coach Rodriguez

Arizona has fired football coach Rich Rodriguez after a notice of claim was filed with the state attorney general's office alleging he ran a hostile workplace.

The Arizona Daily Star revealed the notice of claim on Tuesday after making a public-records request. The paper said the claim was filed last Thursday by a former employee. A notice of claim is a legal document that signals a lawsuit will be filed.

The Daily Star reported that the notice was filed after the University's Office of Institutional Equity retained outside counsel to investigate allegations of sexual harassment from a former employee. The investigation, which concluded last week, did not find enough to fire Rodriguez, but the university became concerned with the "climate and direction" of the program.

Rodriguez issued a statement after he was fired, saying the investigation concerned a former administrative assistant who threated a $7.5 million lawsuit alleging harassment. Rodriguez said he cooperated with the investigation and passed a voluntary polygraph test, noting the complainant did not cooperate with the investigation.

Rodriguez also acknowledged an extramarital affair with a woman not affiliated with the university, saying he apologized to his wife and family and is working to regain their trust.

"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," Rodriguez said. "I am saddened that these accusations and investigation have caused my family additional stress."

Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke announced Rodriguez's firing in a statement issued by the school and said the separation terms of his contract will be honored.

"After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, President 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," Heeke said. "We'll move through the coaching search in an effort to identify a head coach that will build a solid foundation for our program and create an identity of Arizona football that the university, Tucson and southern Arizona communities can be proud of. We're excited about the future of our football program and we look forward to introducing our new head coach at the completion of the search process."

Rodriguez arrived in Tucson after an ugly split with Michigan, where he coached for three seasons. He had an immediate impact on the Wildcats, leading them to four straight bowl games.

Arizona took a step back last season, losing eight straight games while finishing 3-9. The Wildcats were one of college football's more surprising teams this season after opening 6-2. They fell flat after that, losing four of their final five, including a 38-35 setback against Purdue in the Holiday Bowl.

Rodriguez was 43-39 in six seasons at Arizona.

A claim filed by the former assistant to fired Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez says he walked around the office in his underwear, fondled himself in front of her and forced her to cover up an extramarital affair he had with another woman.

The claim seeking damages against Rodriguez was filed by an attorney for the former assistant and her husband and is a required precursor to a lawsuit against a government official. It was released Wednesday by the Arizona attorney general's office.

Lawyer Augustine Jimenez III is seeking a $7.5 million settlement for his clients, saying in the claim that jurors who might consider a lawsuit against a coach who misused his power could award tens of millions of dollars "in this current climate where (hash)MeToo is in the headlines." Jimenez didn't immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

"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," a joint statement from university President Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke said.

Rodriguez denied the former assistant's allegations but acknowledged he had an affair.

"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," Rodriguez said. "I am saddened that these accusations and investigation have caused my family additional stress."

The former assistant had worked for the university since 2001 and was an assistant to the head of football operations under former coach Mike Stoops until he was fired in 2011. The claim says Rodriguez hired her as his assistant on Stoops' recommendation, and she "redoubled her already tireless efforts to make sure Rodriguez has a smooth transition into the role."

The claim says her enthusiasm began to wane in 2013 with the introduction of a Rodriguez-authored "Hideaway Book" that aimed to establish secrecy in football operations. The woman and other top staff began calling themselves the "Triangle of Secrecy" and were required to help cover up and facilitate Rodriguez's indiscretions, especially his extramarital affair, and protect his reputation, the claim says. She quit in August.

The claim outlines a series of incidents beginning in 2015 where the assistant was put in difficult positions involving the woman Rodriguez was seeing and the coach's wife. Numerous incidents were detailed where she was required to lie to Rodriguez's wife.

It also detailed multiple incidents of untoward actions by Rodriguez toward the woman, including walking past her in his underwear, describing how he liked tight briefs, an attempt to kiss her in his office and touching her breast and fondling himself under his shorts after calling her into his office.

The woman's name is included in the legal claim but The Associated Press generally does not identify alleged victims of sexual misconduct.

In August, Creative Artists Agency, which represented him until 2015, sued Rodriguez on claims he owed it more than $230,000 in past-due fees.

D1SportsNet



January 2, 2018



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