Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Heeke had made the decision to fire football coach Rich Rodriguez regardless of the outcome of the university’s investigation into his workplace behavior, according to a UA official who was not authorized to talk to the press.
The university waited until after the third-party investigation had been completed last Thursday to determine whether Rodriguez could be fired for cause – in which case Arizona wouldn’t have had to pay Rodriguez’s buyout of $6.28 million, the UA official said.
The investigation, conducted by the law firm of Cohen Dowd Quigley, could not substantiate the “original specific harassment allegations” brought by a former UA employee against Rodriguez, according to a letter from Heeke and Arizona president Robert C. Robbins released Tuesday night. Therefore, Rodriguez couldn’t be fired for cause.
However, as the letter notes, “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.”
Heeke’s decision was based on several factors, including on-field performance; poor attendance at Arizona Stadium; Rodriguez’s off-field behavior, including in postgame news conferences; and the necessity of the internal investigation.
Rodriguez was fired Tuesday night after six seasons as Arizona’s coach. His firing came in the wake of a $7.5 million notice of claim filed with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in which a former UA employee accuses Rodriguez of creating a hostile work environment and sexually harassing her.
Rodriguez denied those allegations in a note he tweeted late Tuesday night. Rodriguez did admit to having a “consensual extramarital affair with a woman who is not affiliated with the university.”
Rodriguez noted that complainant – whom he referred to as “my former administrative assistant – did not cooperate with the investigation. It is believed she declined to do so because she did not trust that the university would treat her allegations with the seriousness she felt they deserved.
Heeke has begun the process of finding a new coach. A report has linked former LSU coach Les Miles to Arizona. UA players, including quarterback Khalil Tate, have thrown their support behind interim coach Marcel Yates, the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator.