Arizona fires football head coach Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez subject to workplace misconduct claim.
The University of Arizona has reached a decision to fire head coach Rich Rodriguez.
“This evening, we informed Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez that we have terminated his employment effective immediately and will honor the separation terms of his contract,” UA president Robert Robbins and UA athletic director Dave Heeke said in a joint statement. “The decision is based on several factors, including the direction and climate of our football program.”
One of the factors is likely Arizona’s disappointing end to the 2017 season. After starting 6-2, Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats dropped 4 of their last 5 games, including recent losses to Arizona State and then Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl.
The other factor is much more serious. According to a report from USA Today’s Dan Wolken, Rodriguez is currently facing a workplace misconduct notice of claim of $7.5 million stemming from last fall that led the university to hire an outside law firm to investigate Rodriguez.
Arizona Athletics also issued another statement from athletic director Dave Heeke on the decision.
“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.”
The specifics of the misconduct claim are related to sexual harassment and hostile workplace environment.
Here’s a more detailed look at the timeline from the joint statement from Robbins and Heeke:
“In October 2017, the University’s Office of Institutional Equity retained outside counsel to investigate allegations of sexual harassment against Mr. Rodriguez, after a former employee in the Department of Athletics alleged that Mr. Rodriguez harassed her on multiple occasions.”
Because Rodriguez is entitled to a fair investigation, the University of Arizona did not believe he posed a danger to the community.
Continued, “The law firm of Cohen Dowd Quigley was retained by the Office of Institutional Equity to conduct a comprehensive investigation into the allegations made by the former employee and that investigation began in October.”
However, the former employee declined multiple requests from the university to participate in the investigation into her allegations and did not turn over communications that she alleged provided support for her allegation.
The investigation ended on December 28, 2017 and the “original specific harassment allegations against Mr. Rodriguez could not be substantiated based on the evidence and witnesses available to it.”
But during the investigation, it caused Arizona Athletics to “be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program,” per Robbins’ and Heeke’s statement.
The Arizona Daily Star reported that the notice of claim was filed with the state’s attorney general’s office on Thursday.
UA faces a $6.3 million buyout to let go of Rodriguez. In six seasons at Arizona, Rodriguez posted a 43-35 record.
Rodriguez tweeted late Tuesday and denied the allegation. During the investigation, Rodriguez said he cooperated fully and passed a polygraph test that led the university to find him innocent of wrondoing. Rodriguez concluded by saying that he will "vigorously fight these fabricated and groundless claims."
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