The Arizona Wildcats may soon be searching for a new head football coach.
In a surprising development, Dan Wolken of USA Today reported Tuesday night that the University of Arizona is currently weighing whether to fire Rich Rodriguez, and that a decision could come soon.
Wolken later tweeted that he would be “surprised” if the situation isn’t resolved by Tuesday night.
Why is Rodriguez possibly on the way out? One, because Arizona lost four of its last five games to finish the season 7-6 — and that was after the team had a lackluster 3-9 season in 2016.
And secondly because of this legal issue, per USA Today:
Beyond the on-field performance, however, the school also has been dealing with a troubling allegation behind the scenes that led them last fall to hire an outside law firm to investigate Rodriguez for potential workplace misconduct, according to the people with knowledge of the probe. Though no misconduct was determined by the probe, which Rodriguez cooperated with fully, a former administrative assistant subsequently has threatened to file a lawsuit against him.
If that lawsuit is filed this week as Arizona officials expect, it could bring significant negative publicity, particularly in the current national environment. A call to the woman's attorney was not returned Tuesday.
Greg Hansen of the Arizona Daily Star says the allegation is a sexual harassment/hostile work claim:
Notice of claim to Attorney General's office is a sexual harassment/hostile work place claim against Rich Rodriguez— Greg Hansen (@ghansen711) January 3, 2018
If the Wildcats were to fire Rodriguez now, they would do so without cause, meaning they would have to pay his full $6.3 million buyout.
The timing for the dismissal seems odd since the coaching carousel has normally come to a halt by now, not to mention UA has already signed 16 2018 recruits. But it also makes sense.
Wolken explains why:
Rodriguez’s contract runs through May 31, 2020.
Using Jan. 1, 2018, as the termination date, under the terms of the agreement, being fired for cause would cost Rodriguez at least $10.2 million. That includes more than $3 million that would have been owed, or vested, to Rodriguez had he been Arizona’s head football coach on March 15.
Rodriguez entered the 2017 season on the hot seat, but many believed the 54-year-old had saved his job by guiding the Wildcats back to a bowl game.
Rodriguez, who just finished his sixth season in Tucson, has a career 43-35 record at Arizona, but that includes an unimpressive 24-30 record in the Pac-12.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire