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Arizona football: Byrne ‘feels good’ about keeping Rodriguez, who deserves a raise

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after this season's win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez celebrates after this season’s win over No. 5 Oregon. Photo by Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

University of Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne responded to rumors of Louisville interest in football coach Rich Rodriguez with this tweet Monday morning:

It’s not the definitive “he’s not going anywhere” pronouncement, but it’s unlikely Byrne would have taken to social media to say such a thing unless he was confident Rodriguez is sticking around for a third season in Tucson.

After that … well, if another school is interested in your coach, that’s generally a good thing.

The next Arizona coaching news should be about a raise for Rodriguez. That was probably a topic on the table in the past 24 hours, assuming genuine interest from Louisville, which paid former head coach Charlie Strong about 40 percent more than Arizona gave to Rodriguez this season.

Rodriguez was a bargain for Arizona when he took the job in November 2011. He had been out of coaching for a season following his tumultuous three years at Michigan that resulted in an overall losing record. He needed an image-rehabilitation assignment; UA needed the guy who won big at West Virginia.

His first Arizona contract was for five years at a below-market average of $1.9 million per year. The contract was adjusted in February with a raise in base salary of $225,000 and a one-year extension. Rodriguez’s contract calls for an annual bump of $100,000.

Without any further adjustment, he will average $2.275 million for the next four years, not including a retention bonus of $500,000 due on Dec. 1, 2016.

Does he deserve more?

The marketplace says yes.

He put together back-to-back seasons of 8-5 after inheriting a four-win team that lacked depth and was short on NFL-ready talent.

Rodriguez was the 45th-highest paid college football coach in 2013. New coaches at Colorado (Mike MacIntyre, $2.4 million) and Cal (Sonny Dykes, $2.39 million) made more than Rodriguez last season.

Rodriguez ranked no better than ninth in Pac-12 coaching salary last season and was likely 10th. (Stanford, as a private institution does not have to disclose coaches’ salaries, but it has been reported that David Shaw’s compensation is north of Rodriguez’s.)

Now is not the time for Arizona and Rodriguez to split. Each still needs the other. Rodriguez needs to stay and finish the job he didn’t get a chance to finish at Michigan. Arizona needs Rodriguez to continue on-field and off-field momentum.

Arizona doesn’t have endless pockets, but digging deeper to keep Rodriguez around is justified in today’s college football world. It’s simply smart business.

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