Attorneys for former Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez argue that allegations of sexual harassment were almost entirely fabricated with the intent to extort him for $7.5 million.
Rodriguez's attorneys were responding to a notice of claim made by a former administrative assistant of Rodriquez. The response was filed with the Arizona Attorney General's office Monday.
Arizona fired Rodriguez on Jan. 2, the same day the original notice of claim was filed by the woman's attorney. Shortly after being fired, Rodriguez admitted to having an extramarital affair with someone not affiliated with the university but denied allegations of harassment.
The attorney, Augustine Jimenez, alleges his client was forced by Rodriguez to keep an extramarital affair secret, and that Rodriguez also groped and attempted to kiss the woman, among other actions that made the woman feel uncomfortable.
After originally seeking $7.5 million, the claim, which is required before a lawsuit can be filed against a state employee, was amended in late January to ask for an additional million dollars and included the university.
Point by point, Rodriguez's attorneys on Monday defended him against each allegation, strongly denying what the claim outlined. The response includes signed declarations from multiple Arizona staffers whose accounts contradict both general claims about the culture under Rodriguez's watch and specific incidents the woman said occurred.
The response said Jimenez contacted Rodriguez's attorneys twice in early November to propose a multimillion-dollar payout for the woman so she would not publicly disclose several allegations of sexual harassment, his extramarital affair and so that she would not cooperate with the university's investigation into her claims.
In an email to Rodriguez's attorney, dated Nov. 8, Jimenez wrote that "at no time did I ever suggest that this matter could be resolved in the 'the $2million range'. I chose my words very precisely when I told you that I did not have a number, but that it would take 'multiple millions of dollars' to resolve this matter."
Rodriguez's attorneys treated this as an extortion demand and contacted the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI in Tucson, Arizona, the response said.
On Dec. 10, Jimenez again reached out to Rodriguez's counsel with a demand letter for a settlement of all claims for $7.5 million. "This offer expires as of 5PM Arizona time on December 26, 2017," the letter said.
Arizona was scheduled to play its bowl game in Santa Clara, California, on Dec. 27, and Rodriguez's attorneys said the timing of the threat was designed to generate maximum publicity.
One of the first items the response addressed was the existence of Rodriguez's "Hideaway Book," which the original claim said included the statement "Title IX doesn't exist in our office." Rodriguez's attorneys claim there are no references to Title IX in the book, which is updated each year to spell out different objectives for the season, including football strategies and expectations for different members of the program. A copy of what is said to be the 2015 version was included as an exhibit.
The response also denied the existence of the "Triangle of Secrecy," a so-called club that included the woman and two other, former Arizona staffers, which helped cover up Rodriguez's indiscretions. Full statements from the other two employees were not provided, however the response said both have stated they never used the term. The two other staffers have not responded to requests for comment from ESPN when the original claim first became public.
Jimenez has not responded to multiple requests for comment from ESPN since the first claim was filed.