UA fires Rich Rodriguez even after sexual harassment allegations 'could not be substantiated'

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Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Nov 25, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez in the first half during an NCAA college football game against Arizona State, Saturday, Nov 25, 2017, in Tempe, Ariz. (Source: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
TUCSON, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

The University of Arizona has fired head football coach Rich Rodriguez after allegations he sexually harassed a former school employee that the university later couldn't confirm.

Rodriguez finished his sixth season with the school, ending the year with a 7-6 record, losing four of its final five games, including the Territorial Cup to Arizona State. The Wildcats also lost to Purdue on Dec. 27 in the Foster Farms Bowl.

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Back in October, a former employee of the Department of Athletics claimed Rodriguez harassed her on multiple occasions. 

The school's investigation ended on Dec. 28 and found the "original specific harassment allegations" against Rodriguez couldn't be confirmed "based on the evidence and witnesses available," the university said in a statement. 

"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," the university said.

There was also a notice of claim filed with the state attorney general's office alleging he ran a hostile workplace. That claim was filed last Thursday by a former employee. A notice of claim is a legal document that signals a lawsuit will be filed.

[PDF: Read the notice of claim]

In a tweet, Rodriguez said the complaint came from a former administrative assistant who threatened a $7.5 million lawsuit. He said he cooperated with the investigation, including passing a polygraph.

"The claims by my former assistant are simply not true and her demands for a financial settlement are outrageous," Rodriguez said in the statement.

He also admitted to having an extramarital affair with a woman who wasn't affiliated with the University of Arizona. 

"It was wrong and I have apologized to my wife and family," Rodriguez said.

He also said he found out through email that the university was buying out his contract.

The full statement from Rodriguez is in a tweet at the bottom of this story.

Rodriguez was hired as Arizona's 30th football coach in November of 2011. During each of his first two seasons, he went 8-5 and won a bowl game. His best season came in 2014 when the Wildcats won the Pac-12 South Division title but lost in the Pac-12 Championship Game to the Oregon Ducks. They played in the Fiesta Bowl where they lost to the Boise State Broncos.

He went 7-6 in 2015 and had his worse year in 2016 when he went 3-9, including just one win during Pac-12 play.

Below is the statement from the university president and athletic director.

Today is a difficult day for the University of Arizona but also a day on which we reaffirm our commitment to our values — and to ourselves. 

This evening, we informed Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez that we have terminated his employment effective immediately and will honor the separation terms of his contract. The decision is based on several factors, including the direction and climate of our football program. 

Let us share with you what we are able to at this time. 

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. 

We have outstanding young men in our football program and tremendous employees who will continue to work hard on behalf of the Arizona family. We are confident that we will find a new leader of our program who will take us to great heights with men and women of character and talent, on and off of the field. 

Sincerely,

Robert C. Robbins
President 

Dave Heeke
Director of Athletics

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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