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Saturday, January 19, 2008
Report: West Va. governor denies smear campaign against ex-coach Rodriguez

ESPN.com news services

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin disputes claims there was any kind of a smear campaign against former Mountaineers football coach Rich Rodriguez.

"As far as everyone I know -- and that includes the president and the athletic director and most of the staff -- there is no smear campaign,'' Manchin told The Charleston Gazette. "The facts are simply what they are.''

On Thursday, Rodriguez broke his silence on the controversy that has followed since he left West Virginia to become head coach at Michigan.

"There seems to be a campaign to try to smear me," Rodriguez said. "I haven't said anything until recently, when I felt I needed to defend all the false accusations.

"It has just gotten ridiculous over the last couple of days."

An investigation into missing files from Rodriguez's former office revealed the academic records of West Virginia football players are secure after a newspaper report raised questions about missing paperwork.

Citing anonymous sources, the Gazette reported Tuesday that files kept in Rodriguez's private office disappeared between Dec. 16 and Jan. 3, along with strength and conditioning records from the weight room.

The newspaper report claimed the missing documents included players' personal contact information, scholarship payments and class attendance records, as well as strength and conditioning records and photographs that tracked players' physical progress.

"There's so many inaccuracies and falsehood and innuendo, at some point, you get tired of getting beat up," Rodriguez said. "It was that I erased academic files, then the next day, 'Oh no, that didn't happen.' The corrections are on page six and the lead story is on page one."

Rodriguez said he only removed personal papers, such as notes about players or his game plans.

"There was an implication that I had all these secret files and I was throwing them away, but it's simply not true," Rodriguez said.

West Virginia deputy athletic director Mike Parsons called Rodriguez's smear campaign claims "ludicrous" and "absurd."

"We've not done anything to try and smear Rich Rodriguez,'' Parsons told the paper.

Rodriguez is still embroiled in a lawsuit brought by West Virginia University to collect on a $4 million buyout clause in his contract.

The lawsuit was transferred to federal court on Wednesday because Rodriguez had moved to Michigan to take over the Wolverines program.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.