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Woman files $7.5M claim against former UA coach Rich Rodriguez

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez before an NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX — A woman has filed a $7.5 million claim against former University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez, the Arizona Attorney General’s Office said.

The claim filed by Melissa Wilhelmsen and her husband alleged the coach, who was fired on Tuesday, sexually harassed her and created a hostile work environment for multiple employees. She said the stress of what Rodriguez did made her suffer from migraines and nearly ruined her marriage.

A claim is filed in advance of a lawsuit.

Wilhelmsen began working at the school in July 2001 and left for a brief time before returning under then-coach Mike Stoops in 2007. She said any sexual harassment was not permitted under Stoops but that changed when Rodriguez was hired in 2011.

She said the trouble began two years later, when Rodriguez allegedly introduced the “Hideaway Book,” which was for the eyes of a select few in the football program. She alleged the book was designed to create an air of secrecy and included phrases such as “Title IX doesn’t exist in our office.”

Wilhelmsen also said that she and two other employees — Charlie Ragle and Miguel Reveles — were forced to lie about Rodriguez’s indiscretions, including an extramarital affair and making sexual advances at a hotel worker.

She alleged that she was forced to get a field pass for Rodriguez’s girlfriend on at least one occasion and he likely met up with the woman on at least one recruiting trip.

Wilhelmsen said she was questioned about Rodriguez’s affair by his wife several different times.

She also said Rodriguez sexually harassed her on multiple occasions. She claimed the coach touched her breast and would appear before her in various states of undress, including being in his underwear.

At one point, she claimed he held a closed-door meeting with her while touching his privates.

After that, she claimed she and another employee, Matt Dudek, began referring to Rodriguez as “the predator.”

Wilhelmsen also alleged that Rodriguez attempted to give her thousands of dollars on multiple occasions because he “wanted to take care of her” and also tried to make her drink while at the office.

Wilhelmsen attempted to quit multiple times but was pressured by Rodriguez into staying. She tried to change departments at the university, but claimed she was told that Rodriguez would have been “pissed” about the move.

She also said she did not wish to leave and sacrifice a tuition reduction for one of her children.

Wilhelmsen quit her job in August. She said she had been approached by at least one booster who said he was aware of Rodriguez’s behavior but did not support it.

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