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Reports: Louisville to target Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez was smiling after Arizona won the AdvoCare V100 Bowl on Dec. 31. Photo by Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez was smiling after Arizona won the AdvoCare V100 Bowl over Boston College on Dec. 31. Photo by Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

The Texas Longhorns’ hiring of Louisville coach Charlie Strong could cause some anxious moments for Arizona fans.

Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez, who is 16-10 in two seasons in Tucson, is reportedly at the top of Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich’s wish list, according to FootballScoop.com, which is an industry leader for coaching news.

The site reported Sunday that Jurich “is working on it today” in regard to the process of hiring a new coach.

Matt Jones of KentuckySportsRadio.com commented Saturday night that Louisville would target Rodriguez.

Jurich met with Louisville media Sunday and said he wants to quickly bring in somebody new. “The sooner the better,” he said.

Would Rodriguez listen to a pitch from Jurich?

Rodriguez’s situation is pretty good at Arizona, including the new $72 million Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, a recruiting class currently ranked in the national top 20 and, by all reports, an excellent relationship with athletic director Greg Byrne. It’s easy to make a case that he’s just getting on a roll at UA after taking over a program that won four games in 2011.

On the other hand …

Louisville is close to his old West Virginia stomping grounds (true for much of his staff, too) and he maintains recruiting ties to Florida, which is key for Louisville. The Cardinals, who are coming off an 11-1 season behind now-departed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, are moving to the ACC for the 2014 season.

Of course, the key issue could be money.

Louisville figures to come up with a big offer.

Louisville paid Strong $3,738,500 this season, making him the 10th highest-paid college football coach according to USA Today’s salary database. The Cardinals paid their nine assistants about $2.7 million.

Arizona adjusted Rodriguez’s contract last February after his 8-5 debut season. The escalating deal, which runs through Nov. 30, 2017, calls for an average annual salary of $2.25 million for five years. Arizona’s assistants earned $2.15 million this season.

Rodriguez’s salary ranked 45th nationally in USA Today’s salary database.

If Louisville’s interest is genuine, then Rodriguez and staff at least have potential leverage for a salary bump at Arizona.

“We need to be competitive in the marketplace,” Byrne told TucsonCitizen.com last year. “That’s important for us.”

Rodriguez is owed $9.1 million, plus bonuses ($75,000 for reaching a non-BCS bowl game, for example), over the next four seasons. Arizona also established a retention bonus in February; Rodriguez could collect $500,000 if he’s at Arizona on Nov. 30, 2016.

If Rodriguez leaves Arizona on or before Nov. 30, 2014, he must pay a $1 million buyout to the university. He does not owe the university anything if he terminates his contract after that date, unless he leaves for another Pac-12 school.

Jurich got an up-close look at Rodriguez’s glory days at West Virginia after Louisville joined the Big East in 2005. The Mountaineers won conference titles in 2005 and 2007 before Rodriguez left for Michigan.

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