The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 17, 2008

Rodriguez used WVU cell phone to recruit for Michigan

By Mike Casazza

MORGANTOWN — In the hours after telling his team he was leaving for the University of Michigan, former West Virginia football coach Rich Rodriguez called at least two Wolverine recruits from his WVU cell phone, according to records obtained by the Daily Mail through the Freedom of Information Act.

In the request for a declaratory judgment filed by WVU’s Board of Governors last month, the board asked that Rodriguez submit “full and complete copies of all cell phone records, text message records, phone records and e-mails for the time period between Dec. 1, 2007, up to and including Dec. 18, 2007.”

The university suspects Rodriguez contacted recruits for Michigan while still employed at WVU. The NCAA recruiting calendar was also in a quiet and dead period when WVU believes some contact was made.

Attorney Thomas Flaherty, hired to represent WVU and the board in the lawsuit, said it was “impossible to say” the documents obtained by the Daily Mail — phone, text message and e-mail records from his final two months — are what the plaintiffs hope to receive from Rodriguez.

“It’s what the university has, but we don’t know what we’re going to get from Rodriguez,” Flaherty said.

If what the Daily Mail acquired from the university is all or part of what Rodriguez submits, the e-mail and text records seem to be of little use. The history of phone calls is potentially more useful.

Of the calls made to or from Rodriguez’s two WVU phones — one a Blackberry, the other a Cellular One phone — nine were Michigan numbers. The rest were to other locations, and the numbers were blacked out and unidentifiable.

On Dec. 15, the day after Rodriguez met with Michigan officials in Toledo, Ohio, he made seven calls to Peterstown in Monroe County, a place he called 112 times during November and December, often in succession, and also made calls to Boston, Toledo and Phoenix, where his agent works. On Dec. 16, he repeated the cycle with calls to each location. This time, the call to Phoenix lasted 29 minutes.

Four Michigan calls were to or from Central Michigan coach and former WVU assistant Butch Jones.

Two were made to an unknown land line in Ann Arbor, Mich., on the afternoon of Dec. 17. Rodriguez was introduced as Wolverines coach that morning.

However, two numbers belong to high school prospects Boubacar Cissoko and Rocko Khoury, and a third is thought to belong to another prospect. All were contacted the night of Dec. 16, the same day Rodriguez announced his plans to resign at WVU.

Cissoko is a four-star defensive back who committed to Michigan last February but was wavering after coach Lloyd Carr announced his resignation and had begun to entertain other offers. Cissoko since has reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan and says he will help in the recruitment of top-rated quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Khoury is a three-star offensive lineman who committed in June.

A third number is believed to belong to four-star offensive lineman Dan O’Neill, who committed in March. However, it could not be confirmed since O’Neill changed his number throughout the recruiting process.

At 7:42 p.m., about six hours after telling WVU players he was leaving, Rodriguez called an unidentified number in Toledo. His financial adviser works there, but Michigan also has a commitment from a four-star Toledo tight end, Kevin Koger. The call lasted three minutes before Rodriguez called an unidentified Houston number. That call lasted one minute. Michigan has a commitment from a four-star Houston running back, Sam McGuffie.

Rodriguez then called Cissoko in a call that lasted two minutes and took a seven-minute call from an unidentified number, perhaps a person returning a message Rodriguez had left earlier.

Then, Rodriguez called Khoury in a one-minute call and the number believed to belong to O’Neill in a four-minute call. A second unidentified incoming call followed and lasted 13 minutes.

Rodriguez did not use his WVU cell phones to call Pryor on Dec. 16. The records show no call made to a Pennsylvania number that day. Pryor, who said Rodriguez called him that morning to tell him about the move to Michigan, attends Jeanette (Pa.) High.

Rodriguez first called Butch Jones Nov. 24, the day after Central Michigan beat Akron and advanced to the Mid-American Conference championship game. Rodriguez received a call from Jones and the two talked for 17 minutes Dec. 5.

Rodriguez again called Jones and the two had a 24-minute conversation late Dec. 15, the day after Rodriguez met Michigan officials in Toledo. He called Jones again and the two had a 17-minute conversation Dec. 17, the day Rodriguez formally was named Michigan coach.

Jones was a candidate to replace Rodriguez and had two interviews with WVU officials.

A series of interesting phone calls began Dec. 9 when Rodriguez accepted a call from Fayetteville, Ark., at 10:29 p.m. The call lasted nine minutes. The University of Arkansas, located in Fayetteville, hired Bobby Petrino as head coach two days later.

Shawn Windsor, a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press, said Rodriguez told him in an interview that Rodriguez was contacted by Arkansas and declined to speak with the school.

Rodriguez, who said many times while coaching WVU that he did not use e-mail, received just nine, and they were insignificant — a resume from a hopeful graduate assistant, a note from an upset fan, a request to approve a T-shirt design, accommodations for the coaching convention in Anaheim, Calif., and requests for annual leave.

He also didn’t use text messaging much. He sent only 11, and the service provider does not save the content of the messages. Two were to Butch Jones. The first was Oct. 26, a day before the Chippewas beat Kent State. The second was Nov. 8, two days after Central Michigan beat Western Michigan.

The records likely will be at the heart of WVU’s effort to make Rodriguez pay the $4 million buyout requirement in his contract.

Charleston attorney Sean McGinley, one of Rodriguez’s lawyers, Wednesday sought to move the case from Monongalia County Circuit Court to federal court.

“We anticipated they might do this, so it’s no surprise at all,” said Flaherty, attorney for WVU and its board. “We’re perfectly comfortable litigating this in any court.”

Flaherty and the Board of Governors could challenge the motion and seek to keep the case in circuit court. They have 30 days to decide.

However, Flaherty said Rodriguez’s basis for asking to move the case is inaccurate. Rodriguez contends federal court is the proper jurisdiction because the two parties resided in different states at the time he was served papers. He says he established Michigan residency by Dec. 29.

“He received them personally in his Morgantown home from a Kanawha County deputy sheriff,” Flaherty said.

Rodriguez now has five more days to respond to the university’s legal action and provide WVU with requested items. His response initially was due today.