Prince's contract extension not really a surprise

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Ron Prince told me earlier this week he had no doubts he would be receiving a contract extension. But I wonder if he realized it would happen as quickly as it did.

Prince's new, five-year deal is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2008 and will extend through the end of the 2012 season. It will boost his yearly package to about $1.1 million per season and provide the potential to earn an additional $950,000 per year if he achieves some performance-based achievements.

"I am very appreciative of the commitment that the university has shown to our organization," Prince said. "The administration has proven its long-term commitment to us as a program as evident in the current facility expansion and other projects that are essential for sustained success.

"We feel that we are on schedule with our plan of building a fast, tough, strong and disciplined program and are looking forward to this season and many seasons to come."

Prince took his team to a bowl game in his first season with the Wildcats. They beat Texas in each of his first two seasons in a pair of statement victories.

His program is in good shape in the classroom, where it had a record number of players picked to the conference's honor roll. His APR score is going up and 39 players have earned their degrees in his first two seasons.

Those factors were impressive enough to convince athletic director Bob Krause for the extension.

Even with the Wildcats' late defensive collapse last season, it would be hard to imagine Prince being jettisoned after only two or three years.

The contract extension shows the school has some faith in him. But it won't make his building job any easier this season.

A young defense, the inconsistent play of quarterback Josh Freeman and the lack of established skill-position players on offense will make it a big challenge for Prince. He will be tested to reach last season's 5-7 record.

He's added 19 players to help bridge a talent gap that was apparent late last season. And he's building for next season when Chase Daniel will be gone from Missouri, Freeman will be a senior and the junior-college class will have another year of experience.

And while the contract extension is a sign of stability, it's not a universal one.

If Prince should struggle this season, he could soon follow in the footsteps of Big 12 predecessors John Mackovic and Bill Callahan, who were both fired less than a year after receiving lengthy contract extensions.

Mackovic and Callahan both had won division titles in the previous season before their extensions. Mackovic even won the Big 12 title with Texas in 1996.

Prince hasn't come close to doing either. But he convinced school officials that his program is moving forward, despite a 12-13 record after two seasons.