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Ranking Big Ten Coaching Jobs For 2020 (Part 1)

Rival’s Dan McDonald recently made his list, and it had a few “hot takes.”

2019 BIG Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament - Championship Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

Dan McDonald of Rivals basketball recruiting made his own updated ranking for most attractive job openings in the Big Ten. Obviously I have some opinions on his ranking. With that in mind, I wanted to make my own ranking and give the justification in better detail for why I think each school’s head coaching job should rank where I placed it.

First, let’s take a look at Dan McDonald’s ranking, and then I will provide my own before giving the reasoning on why I ranked each school where I did.

Dan McDonald’s ranking 8-13:
8. Purdue
9. Minnesota
10. Iowa
11. Nebraska
12. Northwestern
13. Tie between Rutgers and Penn State

My own bottom seven:
8. Illinois
9. Iowa
10. Minnesota
11. Rutgers
12. Nebraska
13. Northwestern
14. Penn State

Obviously there are some subtle, and maybe some not so subtle shifts in my rankings compared to McDonald’s own choices. So let me get into why I think mine are more accurate.

No. 14 Penn State

Unlike McDonald, I feel confident in stating that Penn State is the outright bottom of the conference in terms of the opportunity it offers a coaching candidate. The school consistently underinvests in its coaching salaries. PSU has hands down the worst game day atmosphere in the conference. While they did finally invest in a dedicated practice facility, the school is still infamous for kicking the team out of Bryce Jordan, cancelling practices, so they could host a previously scheduled concert. To be fair, the school is in a remote, rural location far from major metropolitan areas so it is hard to draw a fanbase on a weeknight for games. However, the reality is the reality, and recruiting to the location is equally as difficult. So in the end somebody should be last, and Penn State is the obvious answer.

No. 13 Northwestern

Chris Collins, along with a great gut job and renovation to Welsh-Ryan Arena, have added quite the breath of fresh air to a P6 basketball program that took until 2017 to finally qualify for the NCAA tournament. Having said that, NU is a difficult sell to recruits overall. Collins has had a few nice gets and Chicago is a great home base to draw talent, but you’re competing against more established programs like DePaul. Not only that, but you have Marquette, Illinois, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, and even somewhat Purdue in easy driving distance along with the rest of the Big Ten recruiting Chicago hard. Add in the academic limitations placed on who you can recruit and this job is only barely more appealing than last place on the list.

No. 12 Nebraska

The Huskers have a lot of potential upside as a head coaching opening. They have some of the best practice facilities in the conference, they have the newest arena and their fans pack it for home games, and they finally showed with Coach Hoiberg they are willing to spend big dollars for the right hire. The downsides, however, are arguably longer. While the facilities are great, the campus is the most remote in the Big Ten from major recruiting grounds. The fans show up to games, but their heart is in football and the sport is treated more as an afterthought to even volleyball. Though, who could blame them when you look at the fact Nebraska hasn’t won a conference title since 1950, has just one conference tournament title in 1994 (their Big 8 days), and remains the only P6 program to have never even won an NCAA tournament game. Finally, Coach Hoiberg was the first coaching hire the school showed they were willing to truly give free rein and resources to. Prior to that, the athletic department would handicap the coaching search and the eventual hire. Coach Hoiberg was a phenomenal choice, and he may cause Nebraska to quickly climb the ranks in the coming years, but until then Nebraska is near the bottom at No. 12.

No. 11 Rutgers

While the RAC may not be a particularly large venue, when it started getting a crowd this season it became a great home advantage. The practice facilities and resources available for the coach may not be top of the conference, but the state of New Jersey offers a great recruiting ground. Rutgers almost snapped their NCAA drought this past season before COVID-19 cancelled the tournament, and most of that talent is returning to Piscataway. Overall, if it were a few seasons ago, Rutgers might be dead last behind Penn State. However, Steve Pikiell is showing you can have success there if you’re the right hire. Depending on how long he sticks around and how far he goes with the team, Rutgers may even climb a little in the coming years.

No. 10 Minnesota

Minnesota is a difficult school to place to some degree. On the one hand, they only have six total NCAA tournament appearances since 2000 and no conference titles since 1982 (not counting their 1997 vacated title). Then again, Williams Arena and the twin cities location of campus should have some appeal for recruits and offer an opportunity for success if the right candidate came along. Would the athletic department be willing to commit the resources for that hire? After all, current Head Coach Richard Pitino ranks near the bottom of the conference in total salary. Until someone can show you can recruit and win on a consistent level and receive the necessary resources, Minnesota will stay near the bottom.

No. 9 Iowa

Iowa may be the hot team coming into this season, but they are a team that hans’t won a regular season championship in the Big Ten since 1979. They do have two conference tournament titles, but they haven’t made the second weekend of the NCAA tournament since 1999. Carver-Hawkeye Arena is a great game day environment, but it sits behind a lot of even better arenas in the Big Ten. Current Head Coach Fran McCaffrey also sits right in the middle of the conference at No. 7 in total pay. While the right hire can have success in Iowa City, until proven otherwise there is a ceiling on that success and it is low enough to place Iowa at No. 9.

No. 8 Illinois

In the NCAA tournament, the Illini have had a few deep runs in the modern era but they lack a national title. They fell just short of one in 2005 as the national runner-up, but since then they have fallen off. While they were likely a lock for the tournament in 2020, it would have snapped a drought dating back to 2013 when they finally made it. Brad Underwood has done a phenomenal job getting talent into Champaign, but in the end Illinois’s lack of recent success on the hardwood compared to conference peers was too much of a knock against them. Once Underwood changes that and the renovations tot he Ubben practice facilities are completed then expect Illinois to climb the list. Until then, I rank them No. 8 in the Big Ten for job openings.

That’s it for the first half of the list. Be sure to check back later for the top coaching jobs in the conference.