Ritchie's Rich...thanks to Ed

You'll pardon West Virginia's players if they speak of commitment every time they talk about Rich Rodriguez. It's just that, with their sixth-year mentor now having one million reasons to stay, it's hard to fathom a better setup for all involved.

When WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong inked Rodriguez to a $1 million a year deal though 2012 – complete with yearly increases and $850,000 in guaranteed promotional income – he seemingly secured the future of Mountaineer football.

"It just shows what a great commitment he has made to us," center Dan Mozes said of Rodriguez, though he could just as easily have meant Pastilong. "I mean, it is easy to commit to one million dollars, I guess. But he's not like that. He is just our coach, a guy who has committed to us. A coach who will be here as long as we are."

Up until at least the 2007 recruiting class, and that's assuming players take the normal five years to play four seasons. It's a huge boost to recruiting to be able to ensure athletes that one will remain the coach for as long as the player is here. It wasn't ever really in doubt, as Rodriguez has repeatedly said he would like to retire at West Virginia. But now, with an extra $125,000 to pay assistants and the planned renovation of locker rooms and the study center, among other niceties, well, Rodriguez played MacArthur to Pastilong's Katsuo Okazaki, getting whatever he wanted in the terms.

But Pastilong, unlike the World War II Japanese, might have gained more in return: A long-term deal with a coach that has won more games and conference titles in a shorter span than any other. One that captured West Virginia's only major bowl win. And one that has the facilities, national exposure and coaching staff and recruiting savvy to push the Mountaineers into the nation's elite.

"I'm glad he got that; he deserves it," said spur Eric Wicks, a Pittsburgh native. "That kind of secures him here for awhile, and that's big. West Virginia is becoming the program around here and where I am from, and this is another step."

Just the latest of which has come from Pastilong, an AD that for too long received far too much criticism for keeping winning Blue and Gold programs in the black. He has now inked the school's two marquee coaches to long-term deals, helped secure a BCS bid after a potentially-lethal conference purge and revamped the major facilities while adding new wings and other improvements to non-revenue sports.

Pastilong's first forward-thinking contract negotiation was basketball head coach John Beilien's buyout clause, which undoubtedly helped keep the mentor from taking the N.C. State job. His second was to add an additional $100,000 per year in deferred compensation to Rodriguez's deal, which the Grant Town native can collect in December of 2011 – as long as he remains the head coach at West Virginia.

It all has West Virginia primed to continue its best two-sport run in school history, as well as be a national player in wrestling, gymnastics and men's and women's soccer, among others.

"It shows they care about the program long-term," fullback Owen Schmitt said.

And yet, with his penchant for a harsh word and a slap on the backside, the players still don't see Rodriguez in the same vain as Ted DiBiase, or even Steve Austin, not the stunning one, but the $6 million dollar man.

"We don't really think of him as a million-dollar man," Mozes said. "He's not like that. He is just a West Virginia guy coaching in West Virginia. It's good for the program, good for the state. It's about dedication. "

"But he does always complain about the mortgage on his house," Schmitt said. "He's always telling us about that."

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