University of Arizona vs UCLA

Rich Rodriguez, greeting wide receiver Shun Brown last week, is trying to keep his team hungry after two impressive victories.

Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star/

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez is the fifth highest-paid coach in college football this year, according to USA Today’s annual survey of coaches’ contracts.

But his total pay of $6,031,563 for 2017-18 comes with an asterisk.

About one third of that compensation comes from the master-limited-partnership provisions that Rodriguez and UA basketball coach Sean Miller have in their contracts.

The Star has reported details of Rodriguez and Miller’s contracts in the past, but USA Today’s story includes some critical dates and figures.

On March 15 of last year, Rodriguez was owed 25 percent of the publicly traded units allocated in the retention provision of his contract. If he remains coach on March 15 of next year, he will be owed the proceeds from the sale of another 25 percent. Those units are currently trading at $1.1 million.

USA Today also reported that if Rodriguez were fired without cause after March 15, 2018, he would be “owed a payment equal to the value of the remaining 50 percent of the units.” That would amount to about $2.1 million. 

Rodriguez wouldn’t get any of that money if his contract were terminated without cause before March 15, or if he were fired for cause. 

After a 3-9 season in 2016, the Wildcats have exceeded expectations. Behind sensational sophomore quarterback Khalil Tate and a productive freshman class, Arizona is 5-2.

An eight- or nine-win season would make Rodriguez an attractive candidate for other job openings. But the March 15, 2018, provision gives him incentive to stay. Additionally, Rodriguez’s son, Rhett Rodriguez, is a freshman quarterback on the team.

Rich Rodriguez’s total compensation puts him in elite company. The only coaches with higher packages are Alabama’s Nick Saban, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State’s Urban Meyer. Saban, Swinney and Meyer have won national championships. Harbaugh guided the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.

The buyouts for Saban, Swinney, Harbaugh and Meyer are all at least $20 million.

Rodriguez’s school buyout as of Dec. 1 is $6,487,500, per USA Today’s database.