West Virginia University Board of Governors v. Rich Rodriguez

Civil Action No. 07-C-851

Robert P. Fitzsimmons was one of two appointed Special Assistant Attorney Generals employed to represent West Virginia University against its former football coach, Rich Rodriguez. Robert J. Fitzsimmons also served as co-counsel.

In August of 2007, Rodriguez signed a six-year written contract as West Virginia’s head football coach. The contract had a liquidated damage clause of $4 million if Rodriguez left without cause during the first year.

In the final game of the 2007 season, WVU lost to Pitt despite being favored by 28 points. The Mountaineers also lost out on a berth to play in the BCS National Championship which was practically guaranteed with a win over Pitt. Within two weeks of the loss, Rodriguez resigned as WVU’s football coach and signed a contract to coach at the University of Michigan.

During the course of discovery, Robert P. Fitzsimmons took the 8 hour deposition of Rodriguez’s agent, Mike Brown, who served as Rodriguez’s representative during the contract negotiations with both WVU and the University of Michigan. During this deposition, it was revealed that Brown had been shopping Rodriguez around to other schools for years despite his binding contracts with WVU. These schools included North Carolina, Arkansas and Alabama. After confronted with several exhibits and emails, Mr. Brown also admitted that he had advertised a service for sports betting tips on pro and college football games for a yearly and/or weekly fee under the alias “WATERBOY.”

Following numerous attempts to schedule the depositions of the University of Michigan’s administrators, a proceeding was instituted in Ann Arbor, Michigan, requesting authority to serve University of Michigan’s President, Sue Coleman, with a subpoena to give testimony at a deposition. President Coleman had been present in Toledo with Rodriguez during the contract negotiations, along with Michigan’s Athletic Director, Rodriguez’s financial advisers and two attorneys whom he had never met before (and ultimately ended up being his attorneys in this lawsuit).
Robert P. Fitzsimmons was scheduled to take the deposition of President Coleman and was also scheduled to take the deposition of Coach Rodriguez’s wife, Rita, who had witnessed the signing of the contract with WVU. Within a day after President Coleman and Rita Rodriguez’s depositions were noticed to be taken by Robert P. Fitzsimmons, Coach Rodriguez’s counsel called WVU’s attorneys and agreed to pay the entire $4 million liquidated damages.

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