"Rodriguez did not immediately come to mind when I started to think about potential candidates for South Carolina. I assumed he would stay at Arizona until a bigger job — say, LSU or Florida State — became available. But as I discussed the possibility with agents and coaches, as well as with people close to the Gamecocks’ search, it seems distinctly possible that the 52-year-old Rodriguez and Tanner will eventually talk."
That move could make sense for both parties. There are going to be more jobs available than proven head coaches. We’re still in mid-October and USC, South Carolina, Maryland and Illinois are already in the market. Miami and Virginia Tech are rational spots that could open up. It’s not inconceivable a retirement might open up Alabama, LSU, or Georgia and set off some chaos.
Justin Fuente looks like a rising star. Chad Morris or Tom Herman may be worth their buyout. There are strong coordinator candidates. None of those are, necessarily, bad options. But, with programs flush with TV revenue, there will be few proven, Power 5 head coaches not ensconced at their present programs.
Dan Mullen rumors persist. But, South Carolina may not offer substantial enough of an upgrade over Mississippi State to be worth the upheaval. The only other real name on that list is Rodriguez. The move could make sense for both parties.
Arizona bought low on Rodriguez in 2012. He has won 31 games over three and a half seasons. Last year saw 10 wins, a division crown and a Top 20 finish. Clearly, he can coach. He’s only 52. He’ll have a better pedigree than just about anyone South Carolina can reasonably consider.
Arizona is not a bad job, but it remains a basketball school. It’s an uphill battle to recruit (hope you like traveling) and to compete consistently there. There’s a reason the Wildcats have never been to a Rose Bowl. Rodriguez may have scraped the ceiling already.
The Gamecocks would offer more money. South Carolina is closer to home and his more familiar recruiting grounds in Florida and along the East Coast. It’s not LSU, but no head coach understands the potential pitfalls of taking an “elite,” max pressure job in a harsh media climate more than Rich Rod.
If Rodriguez wants the SEC, laid back South Carolina and leeway to build may be the much better plan.