Though it actually wasn’t what pushed him out of his job, a sexual harassment lawsuit is what got the ball rolling to push Rich Rodriguez out at Arizona.
He’s now saying that suit is an extortion attempt.
Rodriguez’s former assistant Melissa Wilhelmsen accused Rodriguez of verbally and physically harassing her, centering on a number of instances in which she says he made passes at her breasts or allowed others to do so in his presence. Rodriguez has formally denied all such instances, using as evidence that no other woman at any of his other coaching stops ever made such complaints about him.
But, according to a filing Rodriguez’s attorneys made with Arizona’s Attorney General’s office, which was obtained by the Arizona Republic, the heart of Rodriguez’s grievance centers around money. Wilhelmsen’s suit seeks a $7.5 million payment from Rodriguez, and the suit claims that Wilhelmen’s representation made a thinly-veiled extortion attempt at getting such money. First, Rodriguez’s side says it was told it would take “millions of dollars” to make the case go away, and then said that Wilhelmen’s formal demand letter, which requested the $7.5 million be paid by Dec. 26, was an extortion tactic, since Arizona was slated to play in the Foster Farms Bowl on Dec. 27.
“Demanding the payment the day before the Bowl Game was vicious, cut-throat, and explainable only as the ultimate threat to extort Coach and Mrs. Rodriguez of the $7.5 million,” the filing said.
Wilhelmsen has since filed a second claim finding the university at fault for knowingly employing Rodriguez and allowing him to supervise an employee he was actively harassing.
Arizona could not verify Wilhelmsen’s claims, but still fired Rodriguez without cause on Jan. 2 after finding information that “caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program.”