If head coaching careers in the Mid-American Conference came on a menu there'd only be three options:
- Just coffee for me.
- Appetizers and dessert.
- Can you come back? I can't decide.
The coffee lovers are hot commodities. Here and gone before we knew them. The apps and dessert guys are getting comfortable and sticking around. And lastly there's the undecideds. They are the recently promoted assistants or lower divisional head coaches moving up, who are still too new on the job to tell which of the two routes they'll take..
From Darrell Hazell's Sanka refill to Dave Doeren's cream only to go. We knew these guys were fast tracking to bigger conferences. But is Pete Lembo in line for a caramel macchiato? Or will he sit down with Terry Bowden, Frank Solich and Jeff Quinn to split a key lime pie? Do Miami fans have faith in an unproven (at the DI level) Chuck Martin? Exactly which kind of coach can get your team to the top?
Fortunately, Sporting News has taken the time to rank all 128 FBS coaches. Here's their take on the MAC coaches. Listed in descending MAC rank with their overall ranking in parenthesis.
13. P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan (128)
12. Paul Haynes, Kent State (121)
11. Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan (114)
10. Jeff Quinn, Buffalo (109)
9. Dan Enos, Central Michigan (108)
8. Dino Babers, Bowling Green (97)
7. Matt Campbell, Toledo (94)
6. Rod Carey, Northern Illinois (89)
5. Mark Whipple, UMass (85)
4. Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) (77)
3. Frank Solich, Ohio (67)
2. Terry Bowden, Akron (57)
1. Pete Lembo, Ball State (47)
It's a bit ironic that 3 MAC teams were ranked inside of the top 45 in the final poll at the end of last year with what is generally considered to be "lesser" talent. Yet none of the coaches could get ranked inside of that mark. Wouldn't coaching be the reason for overachieving? There's a mix of quality and potential throughout the coaching ranks in the MAC this season.
It should come as no surprise Sporting News ranked Pete Lembo as the best coach in the MAC. He's compiled a 104 - 49 career record and lead Ball state to consecutive bowl appearances. Having already been considered for the position at Wake Forest and UConn, Lembo may be the only coach that can order off the coffee menu right now. Ball State fans have to hope he fulfills his new five-year contract. As Sporting News noted -
"It's only a matter of time before a Power 5 school realizes Lembo has won everywhere he has been despite some tough circumstances."
Both Terry Bowden and Frank Solich provide stability and proven quality for their respective teams. Bowden has won on the toughest stage having lead Auburn to an undefeated season. In his short time at Akron he's taken a dismal situation and provided hope. Seconds away from one of the biggest wins in school history last season at Ann Arbor, Bowden is putting the MAC on notice. Akron is not a doormat any more.
Solich has an impressive resume as well. Like Terry Bowden, Solich had an impressive run at a top program in Nebraska. During one three year stretch while at Lincoln he went 33 - 5, he also had a better start to his career at Nebraska than either Bo Pelini (his successor) or Tom Osborne (his predecessor). That success has continued at Ohio where the Bobcats have gone 66- 50 over his nine years.
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I have Bowden sticking around for the long term much like Solich. And joining them at the dessert table will be Rod Carey, Matt Campbell and Jeff Quinn.
If you go 12 - 0 your first year as a head coach and no one comes calling there must be some questions. For Carey that question is 0 - 3 in the postseason. No one is going to hold the Orange Bowl loss to Florida State against him, but bad lossess to Bowling Green and Utah State has raised an eyebrow on his big game ability. Handed the keys to the Caddy, he's the NCAA's Eric Spoelstra. It's win or fail.
Quinn and Campbell have both done respectable jobs. I'd have Quinn higher than 10th. Steadily improving Buffalo each season over his four years. Sure he had the best defensive player in Khalil Mack, but the offense has gone from last in the nation PPG in 2010 to 40th in 2013.
Campbell may just be a victim of bad timing. Having to face a dominant NIU squad each year has kept Campbell from the success that would provide more recognition. As Sporting News noted -
"Team still lacks consistency: can’t beat Bowling Green (MAC champion) on the road, and lose (sic) to Northern Illinois at home."
The remaining coaches are going to fall under the "undecided" category. From P.J. Flecks 1 -11 record last season yet pulling off a recruiting bonanza, to Chuck Martin's amazing run at Grand Valley State. We just can't be sure how these guys are going to do (editor's note: that said, it seems ludicrous to put the truly unknown guys ahead of someone with some MAC experience, and to make said coach—the same one who out-recruited BCS teams—DEAD LAST IN THE NATION). Someone will probably fail, but someone may go on to great success.
Which coach do you think will be the next "hot commodity"?