It’s the end of an era for University of Arizona athletics.
The school announced the firing of football head coach Rich Rodriguez this week. The news comes amid misconduct allegations against the 54-year-old, who holds a 45-35 record in six seasons at the helm of the Wildcats.
Rodriguez was popular with Wildcat fans, leading the team to five bowl games and one Pac-12 South title since his arrival in Tucson. While the team lost four of their five last games this season, the future looks bright, especially with the emergence of quarterback Khalil Tate.
University of Arizona officials released a statement about their reasoning for the firing and their misconduct investigation, citing off-field allegations regarding workplace behavior.
“After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, 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,” athletic director Dave Heeke said in a news release.
In a letter sent to students, faculty and staff, Robins and Heeke wrote that “the decision is based on several factors, including the direction and climate of our football program.”
The official release includes the following:
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. Like all University employees, Mr. Rodriguez is entitled to a fair investigation and due process and at no time has the University believed that Mr. Rodriguez posed any danger to a member of the community.
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. After her initial report to the University in October, the former employee retained counsel and declined multiple requests from the University to participate in the investigation into her allegations.
In addition, she was unwilling to turn over communications that she alleged provided support for her allegations and recently filed a notice of a financial claim against Mr. Rodriguez. The investigation, which concluded on December 28, 2017, found that the original specific harassment allegations against Mr. Rodriguez could not be substantiated based on the evidence and witnesses available to it.
However, 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. As a result, we have been reviewing the findings 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.
Rodriguez took to Twitter shortly after, posting a lengthy statement in which he admitted to a “consensual extramarital affair with a woman who is not affiliated with the University.” He said that this was a “single truth” disclosed as part of the complaint, writing “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. I am not a perfect man, but the claims by my former assistant are simply not true and her demands for a financial settlement are outrageous.”
His statement also discussed that a former administrative assistant threatened to file a $7.5 million lawsuit against Rodriguez, alleging workplace harassment. He said an outside investigation by U of A into workplace misconduct determined no wrongdoing took place.
Rodriguez claims he fully cooperated with the ten-week investigation, which included him voluntarily submitting to and passing a polygraph test.
The university will be buying out his contract and will “honor the separation terms of his contract.”
Photo: USA Today