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Rich Rodriguez’s contract approved; Wildcats get a bargain

Greg Byrne (left) pulled in Rich Rodriguez for less than Washington State will pay new coach Mike Leach. Photo by Mark Evans, TucsonCitizen.com

The Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved the five-year contract of Rich Rodriguez on Thursday, which it should have done without hesitation considering the Wildcats’ new football coach is a bargain.

No matter what you think about the fairness or wisdom of the explosion of salaries for college coaches at the football and men’s basketball levels, current market value is current market value.

The thing is, athletic director Greg Byrne was able to land a big fish at below-market value.

Rodriguez’s five-year base salary:

Year 1 — $1.45 million
Year 2 — $1.5 million
Year 3 — $1.6 million
Year 4 — $1.7 million
Year 5 — $1.8 million

Add in $300,000 per year from Nike and IMG (which broadcasts Arizona athletics), and Rodriguez will take in $9.55 million over the length of his contract, less than $2 million per year. View the contract here.

The average salary for a coach on his level — meaning from one of the six conferences that receive an automatic bid into the Bowl Championship Series — was $2.125 million this season. And that number sure won’t be going down. Check out the story and salary database from USA Today.

Arizona, in fact, isn’t paying Rodriguez much more than it did Mike Stoops, who was fired at midseason. Stoops’ contact called for a base salary of $1.2 million this season, with $100,000 raises due on July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013. His contract ran through Jan. 31, 2014.

Stoops received a buyout of about $1.4 million, according to Byrne.

Rodriguez comes “cheap” because he is coming off an unsuccessful stint at Michigan, in which he went 15-22 in three seasons, ending in 2010. Before that, he led West Virginia to four Big East titles and three finishes in the national top 10.

That’s a stronger resume than Mike Leach, announced earlier this week as Washington State’s new coach. Leach, the successful former coach at Texas Tech who was fired over alleged mistreatment of a player, will make $2 million a year in base salary, plus $250,000 per year in ancillary payments.

Meanwhile, Arizona State is looking for a head coach. Will the Regents blanch if the Sun Devils go above $2 million per season for their new coach? UCLA is in coach-search mode, too. Will the Bruins back up the Brinks truck to try to bring in a big name. They pretty much have to because the program has been stuck at exactly .500 for — 56-56 — for the past nine seasons.

The Pac-12 schools have more money to throw around because of a new media deal that kicks in next season, which will be worth about $21 million per year for each school over 12 years. For Arizona, that means about an extra $15 million per year above what it is generating now from television contracts.

Pac-12 schools, such as Washington State just showed, can now be more aggressive in the head coaching marketplace … and in hiring in-demand assistant coaches. Leach, for example, will be able to work with a pool of $1.8 million for his assistants.

Arizona paid its assistants $1,506,510 in base salary in 2010, which ranked seventh in the conference. The money available to Rodriguez for assistants likely will increase by about a third.

“Salaries in the coaching world have exploded,” Rodriguez said last week, talking about money for assistant coaches.

“I’m not complaining, because they have been good for head coaches, too,” he added with a chuckle. “But the assistant coaches are what have really taken off. That’s just part of the market.”

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Got a few hours to spare? Check out our Rich Rodriguez: Ultimate links collection

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