Opinion: Rodriguez Puts Another Cloud Over Arizona

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Copyright 2018 The Arizona Daily Star. All Rights Reserved.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson)


The University of Arizona fired head football coach Rich Rodriguez by email on Tuesday night.

The UA then announced publicly that while an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Rodriguez "could not be substantiated based on the evidence and witnesses available," the athletic department "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."

And so, combined with Rodriguez's poor record on the field, he was let go. His contract was terminated without cause — which is not the same as being fired without a reason. Those reasons, however, didn't meet the criteria in his contract that would allow the UA to fire him without having to pay him out.

Rodriguez walks away with $6.28 million.

When the UA learned of the harassment allegations in October, it hired an outside law firm to investigate. The former employee declined to take part in that inquiry.

She has filed a notice of claim, which is a precursor to a lawsuit against a state agency or employee, for sexual harassment and hostile workplace environment against Rodriguez for $7.5 million.

Rodriguez has denied the allegations of harassment. He has acknowledged he had an extramarital affair with a woman not affiliated with the UA.

What does it take to get fired for cause? The list in Rodriguez's contract is the same, with minor exceptions, as that in the contract of UA President Robert Robbins.

Rodriguez's contract lists the following as grounds for termination with cause:

1) Demonstrated dishonesty;

2) Substantial neglect of properly assigned duties, giving due to consideration to the nature and duration of the incapacity;

3) Personal conduct that substantially impairs coach's fulfillment of assigned duties and responsibilities;

4) Substantial physical or mental incapacity to perform assigned duties, giving due consideration to the nature and duration of the incapacity;

5) Conviction of a criminal act that constitutes a felony, a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, or that otherwise reflects adversely on Coach's fitness to serve as head coach;

6) A material or repetitive violations of

a. Applicable athletic department, board or university policies;

b. Conflict of interest laws or policies related thereto;

c. NCAA or conference regulations; or

d. Any provision of this amendment

Star reporter Michael Lev reported this week that athletic director Dave Heeke had decided to fire Rodriguez no matter the outcome of the harassment investigation because of the coach's "on-field performance; poor attendance at Arizona Stadium; Rodriguez's off-field behavior, including in postgame news conferences; and the necessity of the internal investigation."

Heeke held off, Lev reported, until the investigation's end in case they could fire Rodriguez with cause - and save that $6.28 million.

This episode is the latest in a string of significant and disturbing problems within the UA's athletics program. A former student-athlete who has accused former assistant track and field coach Craig Carter of assaulting and stalking her after a sexual relationship is suing the UA in Pima County Superior Court. Carter, who was fired by the UA, is facing criminal charges.

The UA has also been sued in federal court by one of three victims of former running back Orlando Bradford. She says the UA knew Bradford was dangerous and did not protect her. He was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to two felony counts of aggravated assault.

All this raises the question of culture at the UA, specifically within Arizona athletics. The UA explained in a sit-down meeting with the Star last month that it has a raft of ways to educate athletes, coaches and staff workers about preventing sexual assault, harassment, discrimination and violence.

Rodriguez was known to be belligerent and bullying, including in public and off the field. Reports this week reveal what an open secret his bullying behavior was, which raises the question of how was this kind of conduct, and the atmosphere it creates, allowed to go on for so long?

While it is true that no amount of training and no institution can prevent its members from committing bad acts, the UA has a responsibility to look beyond the wins and losses when hiring coaches and others. Character counts.


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January 7, 2018


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