Heel turn? WVU's Rodriguez discusses UNC rumors

West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said having his name mentioned for other jobs is not a distraction.

He must be confident in that belief, because three days before his biggest regular-season game as a coach, Rodriguez did little to tamp down speculation that he's a potential candidate at North Carolina.

Rodriguez's undefeated Mountaineers, No. 3 in the latest BCS standings, play at No. 5 Louisville Thursday night. Yet on the Big East teleconference Monday, Rodriguez rather freely discussed reports listing him as a possible replacement for John Bunting, who will step down at season's end.

"Anytime any coaches on our staff or myself get mentioned [for a job], it's very flattering," Rodriguez said. "It's not something I've ever viewed as a distraction.

"I've always said [West Virginia] is a great place to coach. You take this job as if it's the last job you'll ever have, and I think I've always taken that approach and I'm taking it now.

"I don't think you ever say never to something, particularly right now."

However, Rodriguez said those sort of decisions are not made in the middle of a season.

"I'm focused on what we're doing right now in our season," he said. "After the season I'm sure I'll sit down with our people here and discuss, with my family, if anything is interesting at that point.

"But right now I'm worried about Louisville. I'm not worried about anything else."

Later, in a statement released by West Virginia, Rodriguez tried to clarify his remarks.

"Don't misinterpret any of my remarks today about the North Carolina job," Rodriguez said in the statement. "I've said many times, and again today, that you treat every job you take as if it's the last job you ever have."

Rodriguez is a West Virginia native and alum. He's 46-22 at the school and received a three-year contract extension, at $1 million a year, in June. The school is still raising funds to continue work on enhanced facilities for the football program, which was an issue Rodriguez wanted addressed.

Other coaches who have been speculated on as candidates for the North Carolina job include former Miami coach Butch Davis, Boston College's Tom O'Brien, Tulsa's Steve Kragthorpe, Navy's Paul Johnson, Rutgers' Greg Schiano, TCU's Gary Patterson and a variety of current college and pro assistants.

The Raleigh News & Oberver quoted Kragthorpe on Monday as praising the North Carolina job but saying he had no interest in it.

North Carolina spokesman Kevin Best said Monday afternoon that athletic director Dick Baddour would not comment on potential job candidates.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.