Rich Rodriguez was forced out as Arizona’s head coach last month after a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment went public. Rodriguez’s former assistant, Melissa Wilhelmsen, is suing him for $7.5 million over what she claimed was an inappropriate workplace atmosphere.
On Monday, Rodriguez’s lawyers filed a legal response to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, which is typically the precursor to a lawsuit, claiming Wilhelmsen and her attorney are attempting to extort Rodriguez.
In the response, which was obtained by the Arizona Republic, Rodriguez’s attorneys say the plaintiff made it clear that it would take “multiple millions of dollars” to make Wilhelmsen go away and eventually presented a demand letter asking for $7.5 million by Dec. 26, the day before Arizona was to play 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,” the legal filing said, according to the paper.
Rodriguez denied any claims he verbally or physically harassed Wilhelmsen, but did admit to having an extramarital affair. The university could not corroborate the woman’s claims, but fired Rodriguez without cause on Jan. 2 after discovering other information that “caused it to be concerned with the direction and climate of the football program.”