Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Above the Fold - Rich Rodriguez: West Virginia's public enemy number 1

There was plenty going on in the D Tuesday. The biggest news being the Republican and Democrat primaries. I'm not going there, as lefties, righties, and moderates are all welcome here at TWFE. I'm keeping this a politics free zone.

On the sports side, the Pistons, led by Rip Hamilton's 39 points, beat the Raptors, the Red Wings lost badly to the Thrashers, for their 3rd consecutive loss, and the NFL released a list of teams the Lions will play, and lose to,in 2008.

But it was all overshadowed by one story. The Rich Rodriguez "Filegate" scandal.

If the entire state of West Virginia didn't want RichRod's head on a pike before yesterday, they sure as Hell do now. Once yet to be named sources at WVU let the West Virginia MSM know of Rodriguez's alleged shredder party, the confetti hit the fan.

In response to WVU's allegations, Rodriguez's agent gave his client's version of events at Mlive.

First, Brown said, Rodriguez did not maintain files on each individual player. As far as contact information, scholarship money and other information, "Rich may have had copies of such things," Brown noted. "But I sure hope the originals of such information are in the compliance office or the academic programs at West Virginia. If not, then they have serious institutional control issues."

- Brown also said that financial records for summer camps were kept by the university, not Rodriguez.

- About the strength and conditioning records, Brown said that, in addition to Rodriguez, every assistant coach was provided with hard copies updating player progress. Among those assistants was new West Virginia coach Bill Stewart who was promoted from Rodriguez's staff.

- Brown said that strength and conditioning files did not include photos of players taken at different points in their careers, as stated in the story.

The agent said he couldn't speak to all the information Rodriguez removed from his office, but Brown did acknowledge that the coach shredded some of it.

"As any employee leaving a job, he's going to throw stuff in the trash," Brown said. "Personal information, personal letters from other coaches, his own game plans. Things like that he wanted to throw away, and at the same time didn't need to be found in the dumpster."

He makes a few good points. I find it hard to believe that WVU didn't have copies of most, if not all, of the records Rodriguez supposedly destroyed, be it on paper, or in a computer. Isn't that standard operating procedure for any large organization? Not that it's an excuse for shredding/destroying/throwing out anything that wasn't nailed down, but it shouldn't be near the catastrophe WVU claims it to be.

As his agent says, if there aren't copies and backups, that's an institutional control issue with the WVU administration. Even with those caveats, destroying files comes across as petty and thoughtless on the part of Rodriguez.

To say that Michigan alumni and fans are concerned about the allegations from WVU is an understatement. If true, and if it's not SOP for any coach leaving a job, or if Rodriguez went overboard in destroying what turns out to be WVU property, they woun't be happy with their new coach at U of m. It's a very un-Michigan like thing to do, and that sort of behavior will never fly with the old blues.

For a view of the WVU side of things, a columnist at the Charlotte (WV) Gazette calls out Rodriguez, and the MSM in Detroit...

From this perspective, the matter doesn’t seem to be about a possible arrest. It doesn’t seem to be about a lawsuit. It’s less about class action and more about actions without class.


From Rodriguez’s negotiations with Michigan (after his promise last year to stay a “very, very long time’’) to his resignation via a grad assistant to this, the coach has absolutely mangled his reputation within our state’s craggy borders.

One wonders if UM officials are paying attention or simply looking away. At least one newspaper in Michigan, that in Ann Arbor, seemed determined to discredit our report when it first surfaced.

I think it's safe to say the moment Rodriguez took the Michigan job, his reputation was "mangled" beyond repair to anyone with West Virginia ties. The WV writer also seems to be forgetting that absolutely nothing has been confirmed. The claim is coming from still unnamed sources from an institution that has started civil action against Rodriguez. Anything coming from anonymous sources from a pissed off former employer should be taken with a large grain of salt sip of moonshine.

As to a Michigan fishwrap discrediting the claims, he's referring to a Jim Carty column in the A2 News.

Whether this story is true or not, at first glance it adds to the image many critics in West Virginia are painting of Rodriguez as a slick opportunist.

And maybe that's the goal.

Skeptical? Well, think back to early 2001, when there were big headlines about how Clinton officials had trashed the White House on their way out. Story after story detailed vandalism and petty actions to protest the house's new occupant, George W. Bush.

A subsequent investigation showed almost all of those stories - most of them citing anonymous sources - were false.

For whatever reason (There's several, and they all revolve around his leaving WVU), the Gazette columnist doesn't give Rodriguez the benefit of the doubt, unlike Jim Carty. All Carty was saying is we need to wait and see, as WVU isn't exactly unbiased, and have 4 million reasons to drag Rodriguez though the mud.

As for the Michigan blogosphere, most are taking the same stance as Carty. The allegations are disturbing, but they are just that, allegations.

Eno says Michigan should take some kind of action against Rodriguez if the reports have merit.

This might not be a George O'Leary or Wally Backman moment for Michigan, but it should at least be addressed if it turns out to have happened. (O'Leary of Notre Dame and Backman of the Arizona Diamondbacks were fired shortly after they were hired -- both for trumping up their resumes) This is big doings -- again, if it's true -- and to ignore it would make Michigan look worse than it already does for POSSIBLY hiring someone who doesn't do things above board. So far, nobody at U-M is talking. That's fine for now, as this story is still in its infancy. It won't be fine forever.

Thing is, what else can U of M realistically do? They've placed all their football eggs in Rodriguez's basket, they have to make the partnership work. This is between Rodriguez and WVU, not between Michigan and WVU, so I'm guessing we'll end up seeing a ceremonial slap on the wrist, or a strongly worded statement from the Wolverines.

MGoBlog takes the same tack, saying there's many questions that need to be answered before we break out the jump to conclusions mat.

Think they have used one of these in West Virginia?
It does have bare feet...

Why would Rodriguez shred all this stuff? (Ohio State fans: because he's a dirty cheater covering his tracks. West Virginia fans: because his one goal in life is to destroy us. Michigan fans: because he knew crazy WVU officials/FOIA-toting fans would go over the documents with a fine-toothed comb and attempt to nail him on every piddling recruiting violation like "called five minutes late.")

Why would WVU let Michigan's coach into the building? (Probably because WVU's AD is full of morons.)

Corollary to previous question: why would "several" people notice Rodriguez, already announced as Michigan's head coach, shredding documents and make no effort to stop him?

Why would all these important documents exist only in single hard copy formats? (See answer to previous questions.)

Corollary to the previous question: do they have computers in West Virginia?

I can't add anything to Brian's questions, as he's covered all the bases. Institutional control, WVU having a massive grudge against their former coach, and the question everyone who has ever dealt with files and records, where's the backups?

Michigan Sports Center thinks the entire situation stinks to high heaven...

I'm sure this will all play out eventually, but until it does the whole situation stinks. I am heavily biased in this whole issue obviously, but if it turns out Rodriguez did destroy information that shouldn't have (stuff that wasn't personal), then he will have to deal with the consequences. Again, if true, he had no right to do that. On the flip side, if the documents he shredded were just personal, then this story should be over with. He has every right to get rid of anything personal because that's his property.

I doubt we'll ever get the whole truth from either side. There's too much at stake. Sean says that this all goes away if the $4 million buyout is paid in full. Truer words have not been spoken. WVU wants their pound of flesh, and they'll be happy to get it in $100 bills. Unmarked, of course...

That's "Above the Fold" of Wednesday, 1-16-08.


  1. Firstly,

    WVU hasn't said ANYTHING. The story has been floating around in Morgantown for 2 weeks, and finally a CHARLESTON (not Charlotte) Gazette reporter started looking into it. THIS WAS the SAME reporter that Rodriguez confided in and talked to off the record during last year's Alabama job fiasco. Even HE is biased on the side of Rich Rod.

    We are pretty sure there ARE back-ups to anything destroyed. That isn't the point. ANYONE KNOWS that to re-do player files from back-ups knows it's a pain-in-the-arse, that shouldn't be necessary.


    The "do we have computers?" issue has been played over and over again. Just how many football coaches actually know how to use an Excel spread-sheet for their spread-offense? Not many. I work in a place that has 200 computers networked together, but there is still one hell of a lot of paper flying around.

    In Summary:

    What does it matter at ALL even if we had PERFECT DUPLICATES? Does that make a difference here? Couple that with the fact that WVU administration has not said a word about it, only to tell a reporter after the story had broken,
    "yes, there are some files missing"
    and that is it.
    You have to also consider in this madness, that although he agreed to stay after the Alabama gig, he did NOT sign a contract until August. FOUR months later, he does the same thing he did exactly one year before. The ink wasn't even dry on his contract by December, and we had a BCS game to play.

    We hate that this entire thing has been spun nationally that we're just out for blood and so forth. That's not it at all.

    BUT, the fact remains that he owes WVU 4 million dollars, which he has made clear from the start he has no intention of paying, although the contract he signed 4 months earlier states that very, very clearly.

  2. I appreciate your reasoned comment, anon. I've had another WVU fan call me Detroit scum!

    I'll admit this whole situation doesn't look good for RichRod. I do believe no laws were broken, but he did step over a line. It's how far that needs to be determined. Honestly, the truth as to what was shredded and the importance of it is somewhere between WVU's "OMFG!" claims, and RichRod's "It was my notes!" rebuttal.

    The $4 million buyout is where it's really going to get ugly. I do agree with you that he should pay the buyout, and be done with it.

    Thanks for reading!