MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -West Virginia defended itself Tuesday against complaints from wealthy football boosters who are furious about the administration's failure to offer coach Rich Rodriguez a deal to remain with the Mountaineers.
Attorney Stephen Goodwin, chairman of WVU's Board of Governors, said that while the administration appreciates the generosity of its donors, it cannot let them decide how the school's affairs are run.
``At the end of the day, the university is governed by its board and its president, and the people they appoint to positions of responsibility,'' he said. ``Making donations to a public university does not entitle anyone to dictate policy or personnel.''
The Board of Governors has confidence in how president Mike Garrison and athletic director Ed Pastilong handled the negotiations, Goodwin said.
``WVU went to the ends of the earth to keep the coach here, and clearly, some of our major donors assisted the school in that effort,'' Goodwin said. ``... But he clearly was looking for an excuse to leave.''
Rodriguez took the job as Michigan coach on Sunday after seven seasons in Morgantown, where he led West Virginia to four Big East championships and a 60-26 record.
Goodwin said he can't predict whether WVU and its former coach will end up in court over a $4 million buyout clause.
``We intend to abide by the contract and all its terms,'' he said, ``and we certainly hope that Coach Rodriguez intends to do the same.''
Rodriguez's agent, Mike Brown said he doesn't know and cannot comment on whether his client will contest the buyout clause.
In the past year, administrators say WVU has made several accommodations to retain Rodriguez, including a 70 percent increase in pay, from $1.05 million to $1.78 million, and a one-time increase of $100,000 to the assistant coaches' salaries.
The university also: created a retirement plan that gave Rodriguez tax benefits; promised to reduce his buyout clause from $4 million to $2 million in September 2008; built a $2 million academic center for athletes; and agreed to a nearly $6 million renovation of the locker room facilities at season's end.
``We've already torn down the walls,'' Goodwin said. ``We were happy to work with him to get those things accomplished.''
Administrators also say they granted other, smaller requests, including seats for recruits at basketball games, and were reviewing other requests when news of the coach's resignation came.
But several football boosters told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that WVU mishandled its dealings with Rodriguez and now stands to lose millions in bowl revenues and donations.
``I've been in business 36 years, and it's the worst business decision I've ever seen,'' Bob Reynolds, former chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments, told the newspaper.
Earl G. ``Ken'' Kendrick Jr., a part owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks, a stakeholder in the Phoenix Suns and a longtime benefactor to the WVU College of Business and Economics, told the Post-Gazette he was disappointed in the lack of judgment and respect for a key employee.
``It's compelling to me as somebody who's given emotional and financial support to the university,'' he said. ``And it makes it questionable to me as I go forward.''
The boosters say they should have been brought in to help broker a last-minute deal and bridge what they called an obvious gap between Rodriguez and the new administration.
Goodwin praised Reynolds and Kendrick as ``great supporters and loyal Mountaineers,'' but called their comments disappointing. He also downplayed what he called minor last-minute demands that Rodriguez raised after returning with his offer from Michigan.
``He was asked to focus on the student athletes and the upcoming bowl game,'' Goodwin said. ``There's a long offseason coming up to work out those sorts of minor issues.
``The clear indication is, the coach wanted to leave,'' he said. ``I just think he came up with some excuses as to why he wanted to go.''
Associated Press writer Lawrence Messina in Charleston contributed to this report.

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