Arizona's firing of Rodriguez comes after sexual harassment allegation

The firing of Rich Rodriguez on Tuesday night after six seasons at Arizona came after a $7.5 million notice of claim was filed last week with the state's attorney general's office alleging the head coach ran a hostile workplace and sexually harassed a former employee.

The university has been dealing with an allegation behind the scenes that led school officials to hire an outside law firm last fall to investigate Rodriguez for potential workplace misconduct. No misconduct was found during the probe, which Rodriguez cooperated with fully, but a former administrative assistant has threatened to file a lawsuit against him.

The university announced his termination in a press release, and school president Robert Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke said they will "honor the separation terms" of Rodriguez's contract, which was set to run through May 31, 2020. His buyout is about $6 million.

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"After conducting a thorough evaluation of our football program and its leadership, both on and off the field, President 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," Heeke said in a statement.

The notice of claim was filed last Thursday by a former employee and her attorney, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Most notices of claim are first sent to the Arizona Board of Regents or the University of Arizona itself, but her $7.5 million claim went directly to the attorney general's office.

Portions of the claim obtained by the newspaper describe a culture in which secrecy was valued. The notice of claim alleges, among other things, that Rodriguez and his closest aides followed a "hideaway book" that detailed such sayings as "Title IX doesn't exist in our office."

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Former Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez
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Former Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez
West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez (R) hugs quarterback Pat White after their win over the University of Georgia at the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia January 2, 2006. West Virginia defeated Georgia 38-35. REUTERS/Erik Lesser
West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez (C) leads his team onto the field after their win over the University of Georgia at the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta, Georgia January 2, 2006. West Virginia defeated Georgia 38-35. REUTERS/Tami Chappell
West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Rich Rodriguez (L) expresses his objection to field judge Ben Vasconcells after his team's touchdown against the Marshall Thundering Herd was called back on a holding penalty, in the second quarter of their NCAA football game in Morgantown, West Virginia September 2, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES)
West Virginia tailback Steve Slaton (R) dunks ice water on Mountineer head coach Rich Rodriguez after he led his team to a 38-35 victory over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Gator Bowl NCAA football game at Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida January 1, 2007. REUTERS/Mark Wallheiser (UNITED STATES)
West Virginia University head coach Rich Rodriguez (R) works on the sideline during his team's 13-9 upset loss to the University of Pittsburgh in their NCAA football game in Morgantown, West Virginia December 1, 2007. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the West Virginia Mountaineers waits to take the field prior to taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Toyota Gator Bowl at Alltel Stadium January 1, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the West Virginia Mountaineers walks the sidelines prior to taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the Toyota Gator Bowl at Alltel Stadium January 1, 2007 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 17: Rich Rodriguez gestures as he is introduced as the University of Michigan's head football coach in Ann Arbor, Michigan, U.S. on Monday, Dec. 17, 2007. Rodriguez is replacing Lloyd Carr at the helm of the Michigan Wolverines, college football's winningest program. (Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 27: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines reacts after fourth quarter play while playing the Wisconsin Badgers on September 27, 2008 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 25: University of Michigan Head Coach Rich Rodriguez during the game against Bowling Green on September 25, 2010 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan defeated Bowling Green 65-21. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats reacts on the sidelines during the college football game against the Oklahoma State Cowboys at Arizona Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 08: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats walks off the field with his son, Rhett, and daughter, Raquel, after defeating the Oklahoma State Cowboys 59-38 in the college football game at Arizona Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 23: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats talks with his team in a huddle during the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Arizona Stadium on November 23, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
23 July 2014: Arizona Head Coach, Rich Rodriguez During the Pac-12 Media day at Paramount Studios, Hollywood CA. (Photo by Eddie Perlas/Icon SMI/Corbis via Getty Images)
20 September 2014: Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez on the sideline during the second half of the Pac-12 college football game at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Arizona. The Arizona Wildcats came from behind to defeat the California Golden Bears 49-45. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)
Jul 31, 2015; Burbank, CA, USA; Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez at Pac-12 Media Day at Warner Bros. Studios. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
TUCSON, AZ - NOVEMBER 15: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats walks the sidelines during the college football game against the Washington Huskies at Arizona Stadium on November 15, 2014 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
10 September 2016: Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez high-fives fans during the Wildcat Walk before the NCAA football game between the Grambling State Tigers and the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. (Photo by Carlos Herrera/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 26: Rich Rodriguez, head coach of the Arizona Wildcats, address the media during the Pac-12 Football Media Day on July 26, 2017 at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TUCSON, AZ - SEPTEMBER 22: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats gestures during the first half of the college football game against the Utah Utes at Arizona Stadium on September 22, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)
EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 18: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats has some words with officials during the first half of the game against the Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez looks on during the college football game between the Arizona Wildcats and the Arizona State Sun Devils on November 25, 2017 at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Those who had the most interaction with Rodriguez -- the former employee and two assistant coaches -- referred to themselves as the "Triangle of Secrecy," according to the claim. The three were charged with lying to Rodriguez's wife to cover up an extramarital affair, according to the claim, and were ordered to protect the coach's reputation above all else.

Rodriguez tweeted a statement late Tuesday in which he said he will "vigorously fight these fabricated and groundless claims" made by his former administrative assistant. In his statement, the coach said he found out about his firing by email.

"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," Rodriguez said. "I am saddened that these accusations and investigation have caused my family additional stress."

The former employee said in the claim obtained by the Daily Star that she "had to walk on eggshells at work, because of (Rodriguez's) volatility and sheer power over the department." She said in the claim that Rodriguez would call her at all hours of the night to change travel plans or deal with Rodriguez's personal emergencies.

"The University initiated a thorough outside investigation," Rodriguez said in his statement Tuesday night. "I fully cooperated with the investigation, including voluntarily taking and passing a polygraph. The University determined that there was no truth to her accusations and found me innocent of any wrongdoing.

"This was a thorough investigation that lasted over 10 weeks and included multiple members of my current and former staff. 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."

According to a copy of the notice of claim obtained by the Arizona Republic, the woman said Rodriguez forced her to keep his extramarital affair a secret while also groping and attempting to kiss her among other actions that made the woman uncomfortable.

The woman said in the claim that Rodriguez attempted to pay her after a January 2017 incident but she refused the money. She ultimately left the job in August.

Rodriguez said Tuesday night that the complaint included "a single truth," admitting he had a "consensual extramarital affair" with a woman who is not affiliated with the university.

"I am still working incredibly hard to repair the bonds I've broken and regain the trust of my wife and children, whom I love dearly," Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez just completed his sixth year at Arizona, losing 38-35 to Purdue in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 27. He had seemingly recovered from a 3-9 record in 2016 that threatened his job, but the Wildcats' slide to finish this season put his job in jeopardy once again.

The 54-year-old Rodriguez went 43-35 at Arizona, averaging less than six wins over the past three seasons. Before joining the Wildcats, he coached at Michigan in 2008-10, going 15-22, and West Virginia in 2001-07, going 60-26.

--Field Level Media

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