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Rodriguez staying at WVU |

Rodriguez staying at WVU

| Friday, December 8, 2006 12:00 a.m

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Senior offensive lineman Jeremy Sheffey said he learned something about West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez today that he’ll never forget.

“He told us he’s a man of his word, and he proved it,” Sheffey said moments after Rodriguez told his team he was passing up the chance to coach Alabama to return for his seventh season with the Mountaineers.

Rodriguez gave the team his word he’d be back last Friday, before a dizzying week of contract offers and media reports that shook the team’s confidence.

While many players were expecting the worst when they entered the team meeting room Friday afternoon at Milan Puskar Stadium, but a loud cheer went up — and the team rose in a standing ovation — when Rodriguez announced his decision.

West Virginia officials scheduled a press conference at 5:30 p.m. Friday to provide more details, including a new two-year contract extension for Rodriguez.

Rodriguez informed Alabama athletic director Mal Moore before addressing the team at approximately 4 p.m.

“I fully respect his decision, and I wish him the best,” Moore said in a statement.

Moore said he remains determined to bring the Crimson Tide “a proven head coach with impressive credentials.”

Rodriguez turned down a deal reportedly for six years worth more than $12 million plus incentives.

“I am very pleased that the university today has reached an agreement extending coach Rodriguez’s contract until January, 2014,” West Virginia president David C. Hardesty, Jr. said Friday. “The program deserves a coach with the work ethic and innovative skill of Rich Rodriguez. We are happy that Rich, (his wife) Rita and their children will remain in Morgantown for many years to come.”

West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong put a new contract proposal on the table to keep Rodriguez at West Virginia, but details were not immediately released.

Moore fired Mike Shula on Nov 26 after a 6-6 season that included a fourth consecutive loss to rival Auburn.

Rodriguez quickly rose to the top of Moore’s list after winning 49 games and leading the Mountaineers to three Big East titles and five bowls in five seasons.

West Virginia resumed practice Friday for its game against Georgia Tech Jan. 1 in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., and from the sounds coming from inside the Mountaineers’ indoor practice facility, it was an upbeat practice.

Rodriguez signed a three-year contract extension June 24 that boosted his pay to about $1.1 million annually.

Pastilong is expected to announced more upgrades in the football facilities, including a new study center.

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