The opportunity is not necessarily about money.
Tom Luljak, vice chancellor for university relations at UWM, said Saturday that Santiago is proud of the progress the university has made and greatly enjoys living and working in Milwaukee.
"While he has found his position to be immensely satisfying, the opportunity at Florida International is one that he feels he needs to explore," Luljak said.
It may be about academic mission as well.
University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly said Saturday that he offered to recommend a pay raise for Santiago when he found out Thursday that Santiago would be a finalist. But Santiago asked Reilly not to do that because his decision about FIU would not be about money, but the type of choice that "tugs at the heart."
Santiago is paid $300,550 a year, which is to rise to $307,355 in June. Reilly offered to raise Santiago's salary to the maximum of his range, $363,223.
According to the Miami Herald report, the next FIU president will receive a compensation package worth as much as $680,000 - about $50,000 more than the current president.
Reilly said Santiago was drawn to Florida International's strong tradition of serving Hispanic populations and its location near relatives and Puerto Rico.
"We value him and really want him to stay," Reilly said. "The regents and I want to do everything in our authority to keep him."
The position, should he take it, is not without challenges, in sports, and in administration.
The Florida International student body is 59% Hispanic, and the school ranked first in the nation among four-year colleges for awarding bachelor's and master's degrees to Hispanic students in a 2008 survey conducted by The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education magazine.
The school has more than 38,000 students and 1,000 full-time faculty members. It has a strong research mission, with about $108 million in external research funding in 2006-'07. UWM, meanwhile, has about 29,000 students and spends some $40 million on research.