Arizona fuels Rich Rod talk

Mention the name Rich Rodriguez to any West Virginia University sports fan and you more than likely will evoke a strongly-worded response.

Many Mountaineer fans love Rodriguez and would welcome him back to WVU with open arms. A seemingly equal number are disgruntled over the way he left WVU following its stunning 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh in 2007.

Although WVU has played football for six seasons since Rodriguez left, he remains a household name in the Mountain State.

The mere mention that a WVU football coach is on the hot seat almost immediately fires-up the speculation about Rodriguez returning to Morgantown.

Something happened last week that once again lit those fires. Rodriguez, who has led the University of Arizona Wildcats to back-to-back 8-5 seasons -including a pair of bowl victories -received a contract extension that increased his base salary from $1.33 million per year to $1.5 million, with a $100,000 increase each season through 2018.

Rodriguez’s contract with Arizona now runs through May 31, 2019.

Should he leave Arizona for another program after January 15, 2015, he would have to pay Arizona $500,000.

But -and I’ve never seen anything like this in any other contract ever before -if Rodriguez leaves Arizona to return to WVU, he must pay $1 million.

Is Arizona afraid Rodriguez will do just that -return to Morgantown? If Rodriguez were planning to do that, would he have agreed to that clause?

I wish I knew.

There’s no doubt WVU’s present head football coach, Dana Holgorsen, is skating on thin ice. If it weren’t for the support of WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck -the man who hired Holgorsen despite his total lack of head coaching experience -Holgorsen already would have been gone from Morgantown. Holgorsen’s seat is as hot as one of those couch fires they set in Morgantown following a football victory. Of course, that only happened four times last year.

If victories once again are that infrequent this season, odds are WVU will be searching for a head football coach.

It may have one on its staff in associate head coach Tom Bradley. But the minute word is out that WVU is looking for a head coach, the name Rich Rodriguez is bound to surface.

I’ve had WVU insiders tell me that the way he left in 2007 burned every bridge that leads to Morgantown.

Yet, others are just as adamant that Rodriguez would still have been here if it wasn’t for his disagreements with former Director of Athletics Ed Pastilong, who has since retired.

Obviously, Arizona is concerned enough it installed that unique clause in Rodriguez’s new contract.

There may be some dull moments on the football field this fall, but it looks like those who toil at the coaching rumor mill will be working all the overtime they can handle.

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