TUCSON, Ariz. - A nine-page notice of claim -- obtained through a public records request -- filed against former University of Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez details years of hostile workplace claims and alleged sexual harassment.
The notice of claim -- an advanced notice showing intent to file a lawsuit -- was sent to the Arizona Attorney General's Office by the attorney representing Melissa and Jason Wilhelmsen.
According to the notice of claim documents, Melissa Wilhelmsen began working for the university's football program in 2007. She would become Rodriguez's assistant after former head coach Mike Stoops was fired in 2011.
The allegations appear to begin in 2013, when Wilhelmsen was introduced to the "Hideaway Book."
The notice of claim reads:
The Hideaway Book was a book authored by Rodriguez and typed each year. The Hideaway Book was for coaches and some football operations people. It was not to be disclosed to anyone else. The main focus of the book was to establish secrecy within Rodriguez's inner circle and establish complete control of the group.
Among the things in the book, according to the notice of claim, was the saying "Title IX doesn't exist in our office." Title IX ensures protection from discrimination based on sex in public education institutions.
Wihelmsen's husband also recounted instances during her employment when football players would send her screenshots of their genitalia via text, according to the document. When Wihelmsen asked Rodriguez to intervene, he ignored her.
Throughout the notice of claim, Wilhelmsen refers to herself and two other employees as the "Triangle of Secrecy" often tasked with shielding Rodriguez from anything that may "harm his reputation." This included, according to the documents, lying to Rodriguez's wife about his "extramarital affair."
In one instance, according to the documents, Wilhelmsen claims information about the death of a player was another secret she had to keep. Zach Hemmila died in his sleep in August of 2016 from the "combined toxic effects of oxymorphone and alprazolam." The notice claims Rodriguez saw Hemmila the evening before he was found dead and was told by a coach that something was wrong, but "did nothing simply saying, 'he'll be fine.'" The notice alleges Rodriguez asked Wilhelmsen to keep his knowledge of Hemmila's "issues" a secret.
The documents claim Wilhelmsen was subjected to sexual harassment often from Rodriguez during her time working as his assistant. Wihelmsen also said Rodriguez offered her money on separate occasions and begged her not to tell her husband or his wife.
On one occasion, according to the notice of claim, Rodriguez asked Wilhelmsen to come into his office and shut the door. After Rodriguez told Wilhelmsen he had begun marital counseling with his wife and "needs to be with someone who is passionate" the notice claims Rodriguez touched the side of her breast and attempted to kiss her. Wilhelmsen pulled away.
On another occasion, according to the documents, Wilhelmsen again found herself in Rodriguez's office with the door closed. The notice claims Rodriguez "carried on a normal conversation" with Wilhelmsen while "grasping his penis."
The stress caused a strain on her marriage and led to migrane headaches for Wilhelmsen, according to the documents. Her attempts to transfer out of the football department were not successful.
According to the notice of claim, Wilhelmsen's last day with U of A was Aug. 9, 2017.
The claim says Wilhelmsen is still having nightmares and has recently entered counseling to "help her deal with the ongoing stress of being in such an abusive work environment."
The documents show the Wilhelmsens "agree to settle all claims" against "Rodriguez, his wife and their marital community" for $7.5 million.