NCAA investigators visit West Virginia

Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— NCAA investigators have met with West Virginia officials regarding possible rules violations within the football program.

WVU athletics spokesman Michael Fragale said Tuesday the university is cooperating with the NCAA during the investigation. He declined to say what prompted the investigators’ visit or when it took place.

“West Virginia University and its Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is committed to operating its athletic program in conformance with the legislation and policy of the NCAA and the Big East conference,” Fragale said. “No additional comments will be made regarding the matter at this time.”

Bill Stewart became the West Virginia head football coach in 2007, taking over for Rich Rodriguez, who left for Michigan after that season. Under Rodriguez, the Wolverines are being investigated by the NCAA for five potentially major rules violations, including those limiting the time spent on practice and football-related activities.

A reporter attempted to ask Rodriguez for comment on the report Tuesday at his weekly news conference, and was cut off by director of media relations Dave Ablauf before the question was finished.

“We’re going to pass on that,” Ablauf said.

Rodriguez did not respond.

Michigan officials have steadfastly stuck by the school’s policy to not answer NCAA-related questions until its ongoing investigation is completed.

“There is no new NCAA investigation involving the University of Michigan,” athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement released by the school Tuesday night. “Any question regarding an NCAA query should be directed to the NCAA. There is nothing new that would cause me to change my position. Rich will coach our team this fall.”

A message seeking comment was left with Rodriguez’s agent, Mike Brown.

Rodriguez led West Virginia, his alma mater, to two Bowl Championship Series berths and a 60-26 record in seven seasons.

The gradual disintegration of the relationship between Rodriguez and the WVU Athletic Department was documented in a series of e-mails written over a five-month period. They showed that Rodriguez’s relationship with the school was on a downhill slide months before he resigned, in part because of his failed attempts to gain total control over the football program.

He left for Michigan two weeks after West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh in the 2007 regular-season finale and failed to secure a spot in the national championship game.

Shortly after leaving, WVU sued Rodriguez to enforce a $4 million buyout clause in his contract. Rodriguez initially refused to pay damages, arguing WVU broke the contract first by failing to honor certain promises — a charge WVU denied.

Michigan paid $2.5 million of the amount and Rodriguez is paying the remaining $1.5 million in three annual installments. Michigan also covered his legal fees.

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AP Sports Writers John Raby in Charleston, W.Va., and Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.

Received 4/14/10