Arizona Football

Former UA coach Rich Rodriguez may soon be added to a Title IX lawsuit against the university.

Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star//

Rich Rodriguez may soon be named in another federal lawsuit.

A woman suing the University of Arizona for violating her Title IX rights filed a motion last week to add the former football coach as a defendant. The amended complaint says that Rodriguez “instituted and enforced a set of shadow policies” for the program which effectively eliminated the enforcement of laws protecting students from abuse, according to the suit.

The lawsuit, filed in October, says that UA employees were told multiple times that former running back Orlando Bradford was assaulting and choking women, including the woman bringing the lawsuit, but failed to act to protect students. Bradford was sentenced to five years of prison in November for assaulting two women. Police reports show that the woman who filed the lawsuit was held against her will for two days and repeatedly — in Bradford’s own words — “tortured.”

The amended lawsuit says that Rodriguez “intentionally created a climate in which ‘Title IX did not exist’ for the football program,” which included the creation of a document called the “Hideaway Book,” and encouraged a climate of disregard for laws protecting students from abuse.

The book and Rodriguez’s attitude towards sex discrimination laws “effectively suspended the enforcement” of those laws, the suit states.

The enforcement of Title IX laws would be “inconsistent with his plans for success for the football program,” which was directly tied to bonuses for winning games, the amended suit states. In essence, holding out top players — like Bradford — would have cost Rodriguez money, the suit states.

The suit says that Rodriguez acted with an “evil mind or reckless indifference” to the woman’s abuse and used his power to “encourage and instruct his staff to disregard and circumvent” laws that protect victims of domestic and sexual violence.

After Bradford’s September 2016 arrest, Rodriguez told reporters that the school had a zero tolerance policy for domestic violence, saying “we have a rule. You put your hands on a woman, you’re done. That’s it. If you did it, if you put your hands on a woman in any way, shape or form, you’re done. Next.”

At least four other football players watched Bradford beat his girlfriends over a span of several months but failed to report it to athletic department staff, since they knew through Rodriguez’s policies that the school’s “zero tolerance” policy towards abuse was a sham, the lawsuit says.

The woman, the suit says, was abused as a “foreseeable and direct result” of Rodriguez’s behavior and actions.

In response to the original lawsuit, the UA’s attorneys denied that the school had a zero tolerance policy.

Rodriguez’s reported “Hideaway Book” was first mentioned in the notice of claim filed against the coach on Dec. 28 by former assistant Melissa Wilhelmsen. The claim stated that Rodriguez and his closest aides followed a book that included such sayings as “Title IX doesn’t exist in our office.” Those who had the most interaction with Rodriguez — Wilhelmsen and two assistant coaches — referred to themselves as the “Triangle of Secrecy,” according to the claim. The three were tasked 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.

Isabel Humphrey, the attorney for the woman seeking to amend the lawsuit, wouldn’t say Monday if she had a copy of the book. She told the Star that she expects the UA “to make diligent efforts to locate and disclose whatever versions of the Hideaway Book exist in hard copy and/or on the university’s computer system.”

The court has not yet filed a response to the motion to amend the complaint, meaning Rodriguez’s addition hasn’t yet been approved.

Rodriguez was fired Jan. 2, the same day that Wilhelmsen’s notice of claim was made public. The coach has largely remained in Tucson over the last month. He and his wife, Rita, were spotted at McKale Center during Thursday’s basketball game between the Wildcats and UCLA.

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. Twitter: @caitlincschmidt

Investigative sports reporter