Rich Rodriguez, left, and Greg Byrne have $2 million to spend on assistant coaches, about $500,000 more than Mike Stoops had.

His contract approved by the Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday, Rich Rodriguez will continue his assistant coaching search armed with $2 million.

Rodriguez's assistant coaching budget is about $500,000 more than former UA coach Mike Stoops used for the 2011 season and was necessary to stay competitive within the Pac-12, athletic director Greg Byrne said.

Byrne said he and Rodriguez negotiated assistant-coaching budgets during the interview process.

"It wasn't a very long discussion," Byrne said, "because I knew we had to be committed."

Byrne said Thursday "there's certainly a chance" the highest salary among Rodriguez's assistants will go to a defensive coordinator.

The head coach will call the offensive plays and said he will be choosy in selecting someone to oversee the defense. As the head coach at West Virginia and Michigan, Rodriguez showed a preference for the 3-3-5 scheme, which features five defensive backs.

Byrne said he and Rodriguez will work on the coaching budget "together" but he will give the coach "a lot of flexibility."

Ten days ago, Rodriguez agreed to a memorandum of understanding, which outlined his contract.

Rodriguez's five-year deal starts at $1.45 million per year in base pay and ends at $1.8 million, with incremental stops in the years between.

He will receive $300,000 a year from Nike, which sponsors the UA athletic department, and annual incentives for academic and athletic performance, attendance spikes and coaching awards. He can receive as much as $525,000 in bonuses.

The UA athletic department, not the school's general fund, will pay salaries for Rodriguez and his assistants.

If it fires Rodriguez without cause, the UA owes him half his remaining pay. If he leaves before the five years are up, the coach owes the UA half his remaining pay.

Rodriguez could owe the UA up to $100,000 if he violates NCAA or Pac-12 rules.

Rodriguez did not appear at the Regents' meeting, which was held on the UA campus.

Byrne and UA interim president Eugene Sander were in attendance when the board approved the contract.

"I feel very good, and appreciate the support by the Board of Regents," Byrne said.

After approving the new deal, regent Ernest Calderon said that "to whom much is given, much is expected."

Byrne is comfortable with the pressure.

"Any person in any leadership position is expected to handle a position with great responsibility and care," he said.

While Rodriguez searches for assistants, two Pac-12 schools, UCLA and Arizona State, are seeking head coaches.

Washington State hired Mike Leach on Wednesday, giving him a $1.8 million pool from which to hire assistants. It marked a $500,000 upgrade from former coach Paul Wulff's assistant-coach salary budget.

Conference teams know they will receive more income from the Pac-12's new media deal, which promises to pay each school more than $20 million per year and takes effect next season.

All the league movement makes the timing of the UA's coaching hire fortuitous.

"Hindsight's always going to be 20-20," Byrne said. "We feel very good about where we are right now."

Michigan Man?

Rich Rodriguez wants a piece of his former employer.

UA athletic director Greg Byrne said Thursday he and the Wildcats' new coach discussed playing Michigan, which fired Rod-riguez after the 2010 season.

"He brought it up like, 'Hey, let's look at this down the road,'" Byrne said. "I said, 'Sure.'"

Byrne said the conversation lasted 10 seconds. He has yet to contact the Wolverines.

"It's a two-way path to play a game," he said.

By the numbers

$1.45 million

Rich Rodriguez's base 2012 salary, which increases every year during the course of his five-year contract


Annual payments Rodriguez will receive from Nike, which sponsors Arizona, on top of his base salary


The maximum amount of bonus money Rodriguez can earn each season - $510,000 for athletic achievements, $15,000 for academic achievements

$2 million

Budget Rodriguez has for assistants

Star reporter Carol Ann Alaimo contributed to this report