Fired Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez, who was canned in January after an ex-assistant accused him of sexually harassing her and creating a hostile work environment for years, is saying that Melissa Wilhelmsen, as well as her attorney, tried to extort $7.5 million from him. Rodriguez also says that the pair threatened to go public with claims of sexual harassment and an extramarital affair if he failed to cough up money.
These allegations were revealed after Anne Ryman and Craig Harris of The Arizona Republic got their hands on a legal response from Rodriguez's lawyers. The former coach's legal team says that Wilhelmsen fabricated the stories of sexual harassment to obtain the aforementioned sum.
The Republic also reports that Rodriguez's attorney was contacted by Wilhelmsen's attorney twice in early November 2017 with three allegations of harassment. A few days later, Wilhelmsen's attorney sent a follow-up email saying it would take "multiple million dollars" for the matter to be resolved.
Rodriguez's legal team says this "extortion attempt" was then dragged out over the course of six weeks before a demand letter was given that requested the $7.5 million by December 26, which was a day before Arizona's appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl.
"Demanding the payment the day before the Bowl Game was vicious, cut-throat, and explainable only as the ultimate threat to extort Coach and Mrs. Rodriguez of the $7.5 million," said Rodriguez's lawyers in the legal filing.
Since he was fired nearly two months ago, Rodriguez has maintained his innocence of any legal wrongdoing, though he did say that he had an extramarital affair with a woman who has no connection to the school. At the time, Arizona said their investigation into the matter did not provide substantiation for Wilhelmsen's claims, but that it did find info that "caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program."