Posted on January 3, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The college football world has been rocked by allegations of sexual assault. The University of Arizona announced late Tuesday night that it has fired head football coach Rich Rodriguez following an investigation into sexual harassment. A complaint alleging misconduct was filed by a former employee of the Arizona athletic department in October. That employee appears to be a former assistant of Rodriguez within the football department.
“After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field,” Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke said in a statement, “President (Robert) 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,”
Arizona retained a law firm to carry out an investigation into Rodriguez and the football program after the allegations were made by the former employee in October. However, the former employee declined to cooperate with the investigation and did not turn over evidence that would have supported her allegation.
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The investigation was completed on December 28 but could find enough evidence to prove the allegations made against Rodriguez. Nevertheless, Arizona was uncomfortable moving forward with Rodriguez following the investigation. Arizona admits they are firing Rodriguez without cause. As a result, will pay him a $6.3 million buyout.
“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,” Robbins and Heeke wrote in a letter to Arizona students, faculty, and staff. “As a result, we have been reviewing the finding and deliberating our course of action. While this is a difficult decision, it is the right decision. And it is a decision that lives up to the core values of the University of Arizona.”
The university says that Rodriguez cooperated with the investigation. The former employee also threatened a lawsuit against Rodriguez. She recently filed a notice of financial claim with the state of Arizona’s Attorney General’s office. Such a lawsuit would have hurt the image of the university, especially with the wave of sexual assault allegations that have swept the nation over the past year.
Rodriguez released a statement via Twitter late Tuesday night. In the statement, he says he was informed of his firing via email. Rodriguez also admitted to having an extra-marital affair but says it was with someone not affiliated with the university. He refutes any allegations of harassment made against him.
“This was a thorough investigation that lasted over 10 weeks and included multiple members of my current and former staff,” Rodriguez said in his statement. “Notably, the complainant refused to cooperate with the investigation. It was comforting to be reassured of what I already knew, the claims were baseless and false.”
Rodriguez spent six seasons at Arizona. He was hired that in 2012, one year removed from an unsuccessful three-year stint at Michigan. His job status was under threat at this time last year following a 3-9 season. However, the Wildcats bounced back in 2017, going 7-6. Rodriguez said in his statement that he was “very excited about the trajectory of our young team, and looked forward to 2018 and beyond.”
Considering the current climate surrounding sexual harassment, it seems unlikely that schools will be lining up to hire Rodriguez for any job. Meanwhile, Arizona will now launch a national search for a new head coach. Firing a coach after bowl season is a rare occurrence and puts Arizona behind the 8-ball heading into the offseason. Nevertheless, the university feels it was right to wash its hands of Rodriguez following the allegations.