Friday, January 25, 2008

Week in Review

A long post to review the week in RR and look forward. I've been out most of the week due to work and a sonogram. Turns out I'm not pregnant, just getting fat. The wife, on the otherhand, is making a little Mountaineer.

If the RR/WVU saga was a game of poker we just hit the turn because there can't be too many more revelations left for the river. The week started off with the Brown camp lobbing a racism claim at WVU during the coaching search. The charge was quickly refuted by WVU officials, but a review is underway. Even bigger news of the day was a reported "bombshell" that would be dropped by Brown later in the week.

In response WVU started revealing information that could be considered harmful to get a WVU-side to potential problematic stories. The first was the revelation of the funds of the 1100 Club. The club was started by Rodriguez for recruiting expenses and members had to donate at least $1,100 to be a "member." WVU officials admitted that money was taken during the the past few years to fund other projects, but money was always returned later and Rodriguez knew of the transactions.

The next turn came when WVU released a series of emails starting before football season showing the discontent of Rodriguez (or at least Brown). The emails showed that Rodriguez wanted complete control over the 1100 club, ads in the stadium, and his own pay website. Also, Brown started threatening WVU by November that Rodriguez could look elsewhere such as Texas A&M or FSU. Rodriguez also complained of Manchin being overly involved in the program. By late in the year Pastilong was out of the loop and Brown was quick to follow. Rodriguez was to talk straight to Chief of Staff Walker and Walker responded to Rodriguez's financial advisor Wilcox. By the end Wilcox was begging for more meetings as Rodriguez had become despondent after the Pitt game.

Finally, the bombshell was released today. It was underwhelming to say the least. The "bombshell" was released in a second letter of resignation. In the letter Rodriguez brings up three points that would appear to be the crux of his buyout argument. The first is a accusation that WVU President Mike Garrison would reduce or eliminate the buyout in the contract. That was followed by Rodriguez claiming he was "pressured" by WVU officials into signing the contract. And finally Rich detailed some of the issues such as the website and 1100 club that never got resolved to his satisfaction leading him to resign.

The attorney for WVU responded quickly.

"President Garrison made no agreement to reduce or eliminate the buyout clause," Wakefield told the AP. "The agreement between Mr. Rodriguez and the university is that which is set forth in the contract, and the terms of the contact are clear and unambiguous. "And it's important to note," he added, "that Mr. Rodriguez had the benefit of counsel representing him as well as a financial agent throughout the negotiations leading up to the signing of the contract."
So now we are at the point where all (or most) of the cards are on the table. Rodriguez appears to be arguing either a breach by WVU or fraudulent inducement to force him to sign the contract/duress. Both of these are probably losing arguments. WVU had 30 days after written notice to respond to any point in the contract that was not upheld. The emails never appear to claim that a contractual obligation was not performed. The emails actually point out items not in the four corners that Rodriguez wanted. Duress would need either a threat to physical or financial well being at the time of signing. That doesn't appear to be an issue here. Fraudulent inducement would be tricking someone into signing the contract. A major hurdle for Rodriguez to overcome will be the experience of the parties signing. Rodriguez had signed many contacts in his career (three in three years with WVU) and was represented by experienced counsel that reviewed and apparently approved the contract. Another issue is that the contract contains a standard four corners clause which states that the entire agreement is contained within the contract and any other or previews agreements are not given any latitude. Also any agreements to the contrary or before the contract would be eliminated by the parole evidence rule.

So if all of those issues are non-starters than Rodriguez has one more agrument or he better start hoping for a miracle revelation on the river. After all the dancing in the press it appears as though the real issue comes right back to the Beilein issue. If you remember there were two main issues in enforcing the Beilein buyout. First was the lack of a payment schedule, not an issue in this contract, and the second was the amount. The buyout is a "liquidated damages clause." This clause is to put the non-breaching party in a equal position as they would have been had there not been a breach. When Beilein resigned WVU immediately hired Bob Huggins so there were no real damages. Rodriguez's best argument is that the hiring of Stewart reduced any damage and therefore any additional monies would be punitive. Brown will almost assuredly point out that WVU is currently on pace to have the most donations in football history as well. However, if I were representing WVU I would turn the table on bff Ken Kendrick and his other buddies. I would call each up on the stand and have them say under oath that they took their pledges back after Rodriguez quit. And that would be the ultimate irony. The coach that has played the victim from day one and claimed to stay out of the press to lose in court due to his donor mouthpieces admitting to the press that they withdrew donations because Rodriguez left.

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