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 Southland shook out among coaches who voted, with one being the best and 13 being the worst:
1. STEPHEN F. AUSTIN STATE (97) – The Lumberjacks have five NCAA Tournament appearances — and all of them have come in the last ten years. The first came via Danny Kaspar in 2009, then three straight with Brad Underwood at the helm (2014-16), and then one with Kyle Keller in 2018. The program ranks first in TV exposure, game atmosphere, budget, facilities and buy games.
Where they win: “Great crowds, atmosphere, college-town feel, nice facility, big-time resources. They are basically almost like a Power Five program in a low-major league, and now they are building a practice facility.” – Southland head coach
Where they lose: “Location and maybe the town itself. They aren’t close to a major airport, but that’s really about it. There isn’t much the program doesn’t have.” Southland assistant
2. LAMAR (91) – The Cardinals rank first in history even if the success came in the late 1970s and early 1980s with Billy Tubbs and Pat Foster at the helm. Lamar also checks in second in four other categories — game atmosphere, budget, recruiting base and facilities.
Where they win: “The arena, facilities, and they can get anyone into school. They have the resources… and the food’s also good in Beaumont.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “The refinery right behind you. It smells like crap. The location is tough, it’s a commuter school and doesn’t have a college feel.” – Southland head coach
3. SAM HOUSTON STATE (83) – The Bearkats have reached the NCAA Tournament twice — in 2003 and 2010 under former coach Bob Marlin. Sam Houston ranks in the top four in the league in every single category.
Where they win: “It’s in a good location. Not far from Houston and Dallas. It’s a nice facility and a college feel.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “Football. It’s a priority there.” – Southland head coach
4. TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI (71) – The Islanders made their lone NCAA appearance in 2007 and rank third in budget and buy games, and fourth in TV exposure, game atmosphere and facilities.
Where they win: “They don’t have football, so they have an advantage within the league in that football doesn’t drain the basketball budget. They have money, their resources go towards basketball and they are on the beach.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “They play at an old minor league hockey arena downtown, and don’t have a great recruiting base.” – Southland head coach
5. NEW ORLEANS (62) – The Privateers do have some history, going to the NCAA tourney five times, including twice under Tim Floyd in 1991 and 1993, and one in 2017 with current coach Mark Slessinger. UNO’s budget is in the bottom half of the league, but it boasts history, pros and a quality recruiting base to sell.
Where they win: “New Orleans. You bring in a recruit for 48 hours to New Orleans, and you’ve got a good chance of getting them. Great recruiting base, city and easy travel with the airport.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “They don’t have much support. The gym is empty for games.” – Southland head coach
6. MCNEESE STATE (52) – The Cowboys haven’t gone dancing since 2002, when Tic Price was in charge. The only other NCAA Tournament appearance came in 1989. McNeese can sell former NBA standout Joe Dumars, enough history and also a beautiful, new arena.
Where they win: “They just opened a big-time arena with a practice facility, and the casinos in Lake Charles are big-time. They are Vegas-like.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “Lack of public funding and lack of recent winning tradition.” – Southland assistant
7. HOUSTON BAPTIST (50) – The lone NCAA Tournament appearance for the Huskies came in 1984 under Gene Iba. Current coach Ron Cottrell has been at the helm since 1991 and led the program from the Great West into the Southland in 2013. Houston Baptist ranks first in recruiting base and last in facilities.
Where they win: “They are a private school that has money. It’s right in Houston. I think it can be a gold mine.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “It’s the worst facility in the league, maybe the country. It makes Fordham look like Madison Square Garden. It’s a high school gym that seats like 600 people.” – Southland assistant
8. ABILENE CHRISTIAN (48) – The Wildcats just went to their first NCAA Tournament in 2019 under Joe Golding. Abilene ranks second in buy games and fourth in the league in budget, but lacks tradition, a solid recruiting base and pros.
Where they win: “It’s a small private school a couple hours from Dallas. They have money, but not much of it goes to basketball.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “The no-sex pact. You can’t have sex or else you are kicked out. They lost two players last year because of this.” – Southland assistant
9. NORTHWESTERN STATE (47) – Mike McConathy has led the Demons to the NCAA Tournament three times — in 2001, 2006 and 2013, even knocking off Iowa as a 14-seed in 2006. The Demons rank in the middle in almost every category except for budget/resources, which was almost at the bottom.
Where they win: “Good facility, atmosphere and the town supports it.” – Southland head coach
Where they lose: “Location. It’s hard to get to, and it’s a tough town to recruit to.” – Southland assistant
10. CENTRAL ARKANSAS (42) – The program is best known for producing Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen. The atmosphere ranks fifth in the league, and one issue is that they get bought more than any other program in the conference. There’s also virtually no tradition or history.
Where they win: “Nice campus, 35 minutes from Little Rock and a decent facility.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “They just don’t really fit in the conference from terms of a regional footprint. Travel is tough in conference, and [they] also have to play a ton of ‘guarantee’ games.” – Southland head coach
11. SOUTHEASTERN LOUISIANA (38) – The Lions reached the NCAA tourney once in 2005 under Billy Kennedy. Jim Yarbrough had five winning seasons during his time as head coach from 2005-2014, and Jay Ladner was 39-28 in his final two years before leaving for Southern Miss this past offseason. The support is towards the bottom of the league, ranking 10th in the conference.
Where they win: “Good college town, AD gets it, school is growing quickly and can get anyone into school.” – Southland head coach
Where they lose: “There’s never anyone at games, and there’s not a lot of support. Lack of financial commitment to basketball.” – Southland head coach
12. INCARNATE WORD (25) – The Cardinals made the jump to the D-1 ranks in 2013, but weren’t eligible for the Big Dance until 2018. They rank in the bottom two in six of the eight categories, and the program’s biggest asset is San Antonio.
Where they win: “San Antonio. That’s it.” – Southland assistant coach
Where they lose: “High school gym, no practice facility, gym floor is slippery when it rains, and the weight room is like a small closest. The facilities just aren’t good.” – Southland assistant
13. NICHOLLS STATE (21) – The Colonels have gone to the NCAA tourney twice — in 1995 and 1998 under Rickey Broussard. Nicholls ranks last in TV exposure, budget, and recruiting base. There just isn’t enough support.
Where they win: “New court, and about an hour from New Orleans. It’s a tough, tough job.” – Southland assistant
Where they lose: “No money, no resources, lowest budget in the league.” – Southland assistant