Washington is going all in with Steve Sarkisian after the Huskies played in their first bowl game since 2002 -- and won one for the first time in a decade.
Sarkisian's new five-year agreement runs through 2015, and he is guaranteed to make $12.75 million over the lifetime of the deal. His guaranteed salary will rise from $2 million to $2.25 million for this season, to $2.4 million in 2012, to $2.55 million in 2013, to $2.7 million in 2014 and $2.85 million in the final year of the deal.
What does it mean?
For one, it means that Sarkisian ranks among the top four coaches in the Pac-12 pay: USC's Lane Kiffin is thought to be No. 1 at about $4 million (that number might be inflated), Oregon's Chip Kelly will make $2.8 million in 2011 and California's Jeff Tedford will make $2.3 million.
It also means the Pac-12 gets another coach with top-25 compensation. That's a good thing for the conference in terms of remaining competitive.
Finally, it means that Washington feels like it's found its coach.
While a 12-13 record in two seasons won't blow anyone away, Sarkisian, 36, took over a team that went 0-12 in 2008 and had not posted a winning season since 2002. He immediately produced wins on the field and, as important, in recruiting.
It's also notable that a team that went 2-16 in Pac-10 play before he took over is 9-9 since he's been in Seattle.
Further, the nature of this past season is interesting.
With quarterback Jake Locker leading a lot of guys back from a 5-7 team, Huskies fans preseason expectations were high. And Sarkisian did nothing to diminish that. In fact, he fed it by questioning the questions about his team: Particularly issues with both lines.
When the Huskies started 3-6 -- and line play was mostly terrible -- there were some grumbles. Locker laid an egg against Nebraska, and didn't play like the future NFL first-round draft pick he was supposed to be.
Things could have fallen apart, and that would have fallen on Sarkisian.
So when they didn't, when the Huskies closed with four consecutive wins, including a shocking domination of those same Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl, that, too, should fall on Sarkisian.
He held his locker room together. He made scheme and personnel adjustments. And then produced a winning record that few saw coming.
Oh, and the Huskies look like they are on their way to another top-25 recruiting class.
Is Washington back? Not yet. But this new contract is a statement of faith that the program believes it will take the next step under Sarkisian.