This is the latest in Stadium’s “Conference Chain of Command” series in which we polled a handful of veteran coaches in every league to determine the best JOBS in each league, all the way down to the ones that are the most difficult.
Here are the eight categories that were utilized to determine the overall rankings.
- Tradition – The history of the program
- Media Exposure – Games on national television
- Game Atmosphere – Includes attendance
- Budget/Resources – Includes coaches’ salaries, recruiting budget, travel budget, private planes, cost of attendance, etc.
- Buy Games – Programs who are bought the fewest number of times will rank first
- Geographical Recruiting Base – Proximity to players
- Facilities – Not just the arena, but also practice facilities, weight room, locker rooms, etc.
- Selling Pros – Being able to sell not only NBA players, but also those who play overseas
This is how polling in the MAC shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and 12 being the worst:
1. Ohio (79) – The program has been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times, including a trio of Sweet 16 appearances. James Snyder was the long-time coach in the 1950s, 60s and into the 70s – and went to the tourney seven times. Danny Nee went twice (1983, 1985), Larry Hunter in 1994, Tim O’Shea in 2005 and John Groce in 2010 and 2012. Ohio ranks in the top two in five of the eight categories – including selling pros (the program produced Gary Trent).
Where they win: “Best arena, top resources, best campus life, great tradition and in-state kids want to go there.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “It’s in the middle of nowhere and the game atmosphere isn’t what it used to be.” – MAC assistant coach
2. Toledo (77) – Toledo has gone to four NCAA Tournaments, but the Rockets haven’t been since 1980 under Bob Nichols. That means Jay Eck, Larry Gipson, Stan Joplin and Gene Cross all came up short in that department, and so has current coach Tod Kowalczyk in his previous eight seasons at the helm. Toledo ranks first in both recruiting base and facilities, and is in the top half in every category.
Where they win: “Best facilities in the league. There’s no doubt about that, and they also have great fan support and support from the administration.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “The expectations. They are high, and they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament in more than 30 years.” – MAC head coach
3. Akron (72) – The Zips have been to four NCAA Tournaments – in 1986, 2009, 2011 and 2013. The first came under Bob Huggins and the last three with Keith Dambrot. Akron ranked in the top three in five categories, and is hurt most by its facilities.
Where they win: “Winning tradition, support from administration, can buy games as needed and budget is as good as just about any program in the league.” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “Facilities. They have a great football and soccer stadium, but one of the worst arenas in the league — and no practice facility.” – MAC assistant coach
4. Kent State (62) – The Golden Flashes have been to six NCAA Tournament appearances (1999, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2017) and an Elite Eight in 2002 under Stan Heath. The last losing season in the program came behind Gary Waters in 1998. Kent State ranks in the top five in six of the eight categories, but the facilities were ranked second from the bottom.
Where they win: “Winning tradition. They haven’t had a losing season in a couple of decades, and they can get just about anyone into school.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “Worst facilities in the league.” – MAC assistant coach
5. Ball State (59) – The Cardinals have been to seven NCAA Tournaments and advanced to a Sweet 16 back in 1990 under Dick Hunsaker. Ball State, known as the school that produced Bonzi Wells, hasn’t been to the NCAA tourney since 2000 — Ray McCallum’s final season at the helm. Tim Buckley couldn’t do it in six seasons, Ronny Thompson failed in his lone year in Muncie, Billy Taylor was 0-for-6 and current coach James Whitford hasn’t been able to do it in his first five seasons.
Where they win: “Location, campus and facilities.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “Resources. They don’t pay their coaches enough, and don’t have the resources that the top programs in the league have.” – MAC assistant coach
6. Buffalo (52) – There’s not a lot of tradition with the Bulls – until recently. Bobby Hurley put the program on the map with an NCAA Tournament bid (the program’s first) in his second season, and Nate Oats has gone in two of his three seasons after being elevated. The recruiting base is towards the bottom of the league, but Hurley and Oats have made it the best place to watch a game in the league.
Where they win: “Located in a city with plenty to do — which can’t be said for the other schools in the league. It’s a good academic school, but can still get kids into school.” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “No tradition before Bobby Hurley took over. Zero NCAA Tournament appearances (before Hurley). People also bash the city of Buffalo, but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as people say.” – MAC head coach
7. Western Michigan (47) – The Broncos have been to the NCAA Tournament four times – in 1976, 1998, 2004 and 2014. The first came courtesy of Eldon Miller, the second with Bob Donewald at the helm and the last two with current coach Steve Hawkins running the ship. Western Michigan ranks in the middle of the league in just about every category.
Where they win: “Kalamazoo is an underrated area, and it’s the brew pub capitol. Plus, it’s near Detroit, Chicago and even Indy.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “Definitely the facilities. It seems like they have spent money on football and even hockey, but they need to upgrade the basketball facilities.” – MAC assistant coach
8. Bowling Green (46) – The Falcons have been to four NCAA Tournaments, but Bill Fitch was the last coach to do so way back in 1968. Jim Larranaga came up empty in 11 seasons, Dan Dakich couldn’t do it in 10 tries, Louis Orr wasn’t able to do it in seven years, Chris Jans came close in his lone campaign and Michael Huger is now on year four. The facilities rank second in the league, but Bowling Green ranks in the bottom third in the league in four categories.
Where they win: “They have the best facilities in the league.” – MAC head coach
The knock: “School is right off the highway, has a poor academic reputation and the campus is ‘blah.’” – MAC head coach
9. Miami (Ohio) (40) – There’s no shortage of history with the RedHawks program: 17 NCAA Tournament appearances and pros like Ron Harper and Wally Szczerbiak. However, every category besides history and selling pros ranks in the bottom third of the league — including checking in dead last in facilities.
Where they win: “It has a great campus, and the tradition is as good as any school in the league.” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “Definitely the facility. It’s the worst in the league. It’s old, odd and too big.” – MAC assistant coach
10. Central Michigan (35) – The program that produced “Thunder” Dan Majerle has played in four NCAA Tournaments – 1975, 1977, 1987 and 2003. There hasn’t been much recent success, though, with the last tourney coming under Jay Smith more than 15 years ago. The Chippewas have a recruiting base ranked at the bottom of the league, and also don’t get much love in terms of national TV exposure.
Where they win: “Kids from that part of Michigan want to go to CMU. It’s a small gym, but they gave a decent game-day atmosphere, a new practice facility, an NBA player in Chris Kaman and a casino in town!” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “The school is in a remote location, appears like they put more resources into football, and is just not a very appealing place to go.” – MAC head coach
11. Eastern Michigan (30) – The Eagles have gone to the NCAA Tournament four times – in 1988, 1991, 1996 and 1998. But since the turn of the century, three coaches have been unable to get EMU dancing: Jim Boone, Charles Ramsey and current coach Rob Murphy. Eastern Michigan ranks at the bottom of the league in both budget and game atmosphere.
Where they win: “Location is good, it’s close to Ann Arbor and close to the airport, and the facilities are nice – somewhere in the middle towards the top of the league.” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “Attendance. They have a nice gym, but literally no one goes to games. It’s the worst atmosphere in the league.” – MAC head coach
12. Northern Illinois (25) – Current coach Mark Montgomery has done a nice job all things considered. There’s not much history – three NCAA Tournament appearances (1982, 1991, 1996) and the program ranks in the bottom two in six of the eight categories — including last in history, TV exposure, buy games and selling pros.
Where they win: “Facilities. Quality practice facility and decent arena. The school is also close to Chicago – which can be a blessing and also a curse.” – MAC assistant coach
The knock: “General apathy towards basketball from both administration and also the fan base, and also bottom of the league resources.” – MAC assistant coach