THREE YEARS ago, Temple did the right thing by hiring former assistant Matt Rhule when it could have offered the job to any number of candidates, some of whom appeared to be more qualified than others.

And the university was rewarded when the Owls played in last Saturday's first American Conference title game. While they lost at favored Houston, they still have a chance to become the first team in program history to finish with 11 wins, and the second (first in 36 years) to be ranked in the final poll.

They'll close on Dec. 22 against Toledo in the Boca Raton (Fla.) Bowl. While that's not the Peach Bowl on New Year's Eve against Florida State, it's a long way from 2013's 2-10.

So on Monday, Temple did what was right - and maybe even necessary - once again, by rewarding Rhule with a pay raise. This was also the right thing from Rhule's perspective. Because for everything he's already done, some unfinished business remains.

Getting this far is the first step. Doing it over and over is what makes it a program. The Owls didn't get to host the AAC final because they didn't have the best conference record. They didn't hoist the trophy. And they weren't the highest non-Power 5 team in the final College Football Playoff standings, which would've been an even bigger deal on North Broad and beyond.

But at least there's next year, and maybe beyond.

Rhule's contract runs through 2021. He was making about $1.5 million annually with bonuses. Now he'll be earning more, likely a lot more. Houston just upped Tom Herman, the former Ohio State offensive coordinator, from $1.5 million to an average of nearly $3 million with incentives through 2020. After one year.

Rhule still has a buyout clause, but even the most significant of those can be circumvented if someone else in a better position to do whatever wants him enough. And if he keeps doing what he's doing, that figures to happen. It's mostly a matter of when and who. And he has to want them too. But until then the future is in extremely capable hands. Popular too. It's called a win-win.

Rhule, who is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year award, talked to Missouri about its opening, because that's how the business works. Yet he's still here. And he's supposedly making more than he'd be making at either Rutgers of the Big Ten or Syracuse of the ACC, to name two Power-5 situations that aren't better right now. So there is that part of the reality.

On Tuesday the Temple Board of Trustees will begin to officially discuss a proposal on a projected $100 million on-campus stadium at its scheduled meeting. Whether you think that's a sound financial move or not, what happened on the field this season doesn't figure to hurt the cause/argument. Who knows if Rhule ever coaches a game in that facility, if it's indeed built. But at least there's a possibility. And that can't be anything but good. Not to mention even more rewarding.