After Temple beat Memphis on Nov. 21, I ran into a plugged-in and sharp Temple alum who immediately said, "Get that man a raise and a country club membership."
He wasn't talking about Temple head coach Matt Rhule. He meant Owls defensive coordinator Phil Snow, whose unit had taken over yet another game.
The point is that Temple's success - a 10-2 season, a trip to Saturday's American Athletic Conference title game at Houston, national pub like it has never gotten before - comes with a price tag. It was already a given to this alum that schools would be coming after Rhule and that Temple would have to pony up to keep him.
A source told The Inquirer's Marc Narducci that Rhule spoke with a representative from Missouri on Sunday. None of this is catching Temple's administration by surprise. They know they have a hot coach in a year when there are a lot of openings.
According to several sources, Temple is working to put together a package to keep Rhule. I believe that Rhule held off potential suitors as long as he could. But openings are getting filled. Missouri also was looking to talk to Toledo's head coach, but Iowa State reportedly sealed a deal with Matt Campbell first.
All along, it's been obvious that Rhule isn't a guy who will automatically jump at the first Power 5 job. Then again, there are some jobs that are virtually impossible for anybody outside the Power 5 to turn down.
Missouri is not an automatic yes or no. It's in the powerhouse Southeastern Conference, but it's in the SEC East, which means the right coach can maybe get ahead of Vanderbilt and Kentucky and possibly other schools that are on a downturn. It's not an easy job, but far from a hopeless job.
Compare that to Maryland, another program looking for a coach. The Terps job would be great and a natural fit for Rhule's recruiting base. And if Maryland was still in the Atlantic Coast Conference, maybe it would be the best fit. The Terps can afford to pay more now that they are getting Big Ten Network money, which is basically why they switched leagues. But the Terps also are in a division with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Penn State. Heavy lifting required.
Virginia just opened up. Do the Cavs come after Rhule? (Or do they want Al Golden, once a Virginia assistant before he came to Temple?) Does Rutgers try? There's a tough job from any angle.
Rhule's attractiveness as a candidate obviously includes W's and L's but goes beyond that. He seems to know how to be tough on players while commanding their loyalty. His ability to communicate, frankly, is off the charts, win or lose. Whatever Missouri thinks it sees, Missouri is right.
Temple re-upped Rhule after the Owls went 6-6 last season, basically doubling his salary to $1.3 million, according to sources. I'm not saying the school has to double it again, but the price of doing business in the American Athletic Conference clearly has gone up. Houston already has renegotiated a deal with its first-year coach, Tom Herman, for a reported $3 million a year. (Nevertheless, his name has surfaced at Georgia.)
Memphis reportedly offered Justin Fuente $2.5 million a year, but he is headed for Virginia Tech, another tough-to-turn-down job.
Upping the ante with Rhule and his assistants comes at an interesting time, when Temple also is asking its heavy hitters to contribute to a campus stadium. It's the same pool of people, and not an unlimited pool. But again, there seems to be an understanding across the spectrum that everything within reason that can be done to keep Rhule - meaning from the checkbooks of alums - should be done.
The money may sound ridiculous. You may raise your eyebrows at phrases such as "the cost of doing business." Everyone knows college football is big business. The school's president, Neil Theobald, is perfectly comfortable losing $7 million a year on athletics.
"The average NCAA athletic program loses almost $8 million a year," Theobald told me in 2013. "That would be right in line."
For Rhule, this is all uncharted territory. He's used to being the guy who has to go after jobs hard. Theobald was talking to potential head coaches in 2013 when he got a text from his personal physician in Indiana: "MATT RHULE WILL MAKE A GREAT FOOTBALL COACH." (Rhule knew somebody who knew the doctor.)
That aggressive style offers a window to how Rhule has gotten things done at Temple. Because he turned out to be a fit, and knows the program isn't falling off a cliff after this season, there is optimism among many of the alums that they'll be able to keep Rhule right now. We'll soon find out whether that optimism is misplaced.
"I'll do my share," the one alum said after the Memphis game.