Former University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez says that a former employee attempted to extort $7.5 million from him.
Rodriguez claims that the employee, Melissa Wilhelmsen, and her lawyer threatened to go public with claims of sexual harassment if Rodriguez didn’t pay, according to The Arizona Republic. Rodriguez further claims the allegations are untrue.
Wilhemsen, who worked as Rodriguez’s assistant, is now seeking $7.5 million in a legal claim with the state.
The version of events outlined by Rodriguez’s attorneys in response to Wilhemsen’s legal claim paints a picture of what they call an “extortion attempt” that “dragged on for six weeks.”
Wilhemsen’s lawyer, Augustine Jimenez, reached out to the coach’s attorney in early November with three allegations of sexual harassment. Jimenez said in follow-up emails that it would take “multiple million dollars” to resolve the issue.
These communications continued until Jimenez ultimately presented a demand for the $7.5 million and set a deadline of Dec. 26 for payment — the day prior to Arizona’s bowl game.
Rodriguez’s lawyers alerted authorities, including the university, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, of what they claimed was an extortion attempt.
The Arizona Republic describes the latest move by Rodriguez's legal team as an attempt to clear the coach’s name.
Rodriguez was fired in January, at which time the university said its own investigation didn’t substantiate Wilhelmsen’s claims of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment, but did turn up information that “caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program.”