Football player files missing – Fingers point to Rodriguez

By Dave Hickman
Staff writer

MORGANTOWN ­- West Virginia officials are wondering if assistant coaches aren’t all that Rich Rodriguez took with him to Michigan. They believe he may also have destroyed all or most of the paperwork files relating to every player on the current Mountaineer roster and virtually all of the activities conducted by the program over the past seven years.

Soon after returning to work after the Fiesta Bowl a little more than a week ago, the staff at the Puskar Center found that most of the files ­ including all of the player files ­ that had been stored in Rodriguez’s private office were missing. In addition, all of the players’ strength and conditioning files in the weight room were gone.

“It’s unbelievable. Everything is gone, like it never existed,” said a source within the athletic department, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Good, bad or indifferent, we don’t have a record of anything that has happened.”

According to the source, the files in Rodriguez’s office that are now missing included everything from records regarding summer camps ­ financial and otherwise ­ to data on boosters, recruiting and most everything related to activities within the program during Rodriguez’s seven years at WVU.

Most disturbing, though, is the absence of all of the players’ personal files, which included, among other things, contact information, scholarship money awarded, class attendance records and records on personal conduct and community service, be it positive or negative.

“If a player spoke to a school or did public service, we don’t have a record of it,” said the source. “If he broke a rule or missed class, we don’t have a record of that, either. We don’t have anything. All the good things these kids have done over the years, there’s nothing ­ not a picture of somebody speaking to a class, nothing. Why would somebody do that?”

West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong did not return a message seeking comment Monday night. Neither could Rodriguez be reached for comment.

The files went missing sometime between when Rodriguez resigned on Dec. 16 and the time the team and staff returned from the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 3. It could have happened as early as the first days following Rodriguez’s resignation because his old office was largely ignored by the support staff and the coaching staff between the time he left and Dec. 26, when the team and support staff all went to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl.

According to multiple sources, several people in the Puskar Center reported seeing Rodriguez and at least one member of his inner circle, video coordinator Dusty Rutledge, in Rodriguez’s private office shredding paperwork on Dec. 18.

That’s the day he returned to clean out his office after being introduced as the Michigan coach at a press conference in Ann Arbor the day before. At the time, those who say they witnessed it either did not know what was being destroyed or paid it little attention to it until the files were discovered missing more than two weeks later.

While the files in Rodriguez’s office held a wide range of information, those that were discovered missing from the weight room office were more specific.

Those included every aspect of strength and conditioning progress made by players under former strength and conditioning coordinator Mike Barwis, who along with most of his immediate staff followed Rodriguez to Michigan after the Fiesta Bowl. Those files included the progression made by each player in every specific area, from bench-press totals to 40-yard dash times. The files even included pictures of the players at different points in their careers.

While a source within the athletic department said the department itself wasn’t launching any type of investigation into the missing files ­ “Our plate is pretty full right now with trying to put together a staff and everything else,” the source said, “and we don’t have time to deal with [stuff] like this right now.” ­ it has apparently drawn the interest of the university’s legal counsel.

WVU lawyers are in the process of trying to recover $4 million from Rodriguez as a condition of breaking his contract with six years remaining to become the coach at Michigan. While Rodriguez has maintained that West Virginia breached the contract by not fulfilling all of its terms ­ an argument the university denies ­ the school filed suit in Monongalia County Circuit Court last month detailing what it claims are breaches by Rodriguez above and beyond simply breaking the contract. Those include calling recruits to tell them of his decision to switch schools before he told his own team. It certainly would not help Rodriguez’s case if the school can prove that he also destroyed what WVU officials consider state files on his way out.

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