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Rich Rodriguez to Florida fears begin at Arizona

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Rich Rodriguez and Greg Byrne are doing good jobs -- and that means there's a fear they might leave.

Christian Petersen

One mention and it's speculation. Two and it gets a little uncomfortable if you're an Arizona fan.

Rich Rodriguez hasn't taken long to build a winning team in the desert, and if the Wildcats find themselves challenging in or winning the Pac-12 South in four weeks, rumors could begin building. The Florida Gators are floundering, and after two less-than-stellar coaching tenures by Ron Zook and current coach Will Muschamp, it seems that a new coach could be on the horizon.

Both Yahoo!'s Pat Forde and Sporting News' Matt Hayes place RichRod on the shortlist of potential replacements for Muschamp. Read again: These aren't reports that this is going to happen (you know, Florida has to fire their coach first), just their lists of coaches who would be solid candidates.

From Hayes:

Rich Rodriguez, Arizona: Already has Arizona competing at a high level in the Pac-12, and would bring the same offense that former Florida coach Urban Meyer ran with so much success. Rodriguez still talks about his days at Michigan, and how he would have gotten things turned around had he been given more time. What better way to prove that than doing it at Florida?

This is all true, except one of Rodriguez's biggest regrets of his Michigan tenure was, in his words, baking the cake and not getting to eat it. He's still baking at Arizona.

This situation isn't too different from one in January, when Greg Byrne had to bat down rumors about Rodriguez's candidacy at Louisville. That was followed in May by Rodriguez, Byrne and Sean Miller receiving extensions through 2018.

Forde, however, also mentions in his Forde-yard dash of "Worst fears of the college football season" that Byrne could be a top candidate to become the SEC commissioner with Mike Slive retiring after this academic year.

Byrne has done his job in doing everything to keep Miller and Rodriguez in town, and he'll have to continue fighting away the gnats after their success. But if Byrne ever leaves Arizona, it could provide the opening and uncertainty at Arizona for others to swoop in.

All things considered, Rodriguez probably doesn't want to move his entire staff across the country if he believes he can help Arizona challenge for Rose Bowls -- and without the pressure cooker in Gainsville that's probably similar to that of Ann Arbor. Byrne, likewise, moved to Tucson from Mississippi State to be closer to his family.