Good quarterback play and head coaches can make a big difference in a league like the MAC where little separates the jobs on a year-to-year basis. Northern Illinois and Toledo are the clear top two jobs in the conference, but Ohio, Central Michigan, Western Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green form a solid second tier.
Ranking the jobs for every FBS conference is no easy task. After all, the rankings are subjective based upon numerous factors, but we have ranked every college football program in the country, based on the attractiveness of the position from a coaching perspective. We considered many factors — tradition, facilities, location, money, ability to recruit talent — but in the end, we simply asked ourselves the following question: Where would we want to coach?
Ranking the MAC Coaching Jobs
12. Eastern Michigan
Sixth-year coach Chris Creighton has guided Eastern Michigan to two bowl games over the last three seasons, but this is still one of the toughest jobs in the nation. Low attendance and fan support are an ongoing issue, and establishing any noise locally is tough with the University of Michigan located just six miles away. Since 1975, Eastern Michigan has just eight winning seasons and three bowl trips.
11. Kent State
Kent State has a strong collection of alumni with Nick Saban, Lou Holtz, Gary Pinkel, Jack Lambert, Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison. However, that hasn’t translated into success on the gridiron for the Golden Flashes. This program has just two bowl trips and eight winning seasons since 1962. Kent State also averaged only 13,118 fans per game in 2018.
10. Ball State
Ball State enters the 2019 season with a streak of five consecutive losing seasons. However, the program did finish No. 12 nationally with a 12-1 mark in 2008. According to USA Today’s database, Ball State ranks near the bottom of the MAC in expenses ($27 million), and Mike Neu was one of the lowest-paid coaches in college football ($435,689). The program averaged only 10,288 fans per game in 2018.
The University of Buffalo will always struggle for media attention in a market that features the Bills and Sabres. However, the Bulls ranked near the top of the MAC by averaging 18,380 fans per game in 2018. Since joining the MAC in 1999, Buffalo has recorded only three winning seasons. The 10-4 record in 2018 marked the best win total for the program at the FBS level.
There’s plenty of high school talent in the state of Ohio, and Akron’s InfoCision Stadium opened in 2009. Despite those advantages, the Zips have yet to find consistent success. The program has just three bowl trips since 1987 and has only one MAC title (2005). Budget issues are a hurdle for the program, as former coach Terry Bowden made $412,500 (ranked 121st nationally) in 2018.
7. Bowling Green
With the right coach, Bowling Green has proven it can win at a high level. Urban Meyer won 17 games from 2001-02, Gregg Brandon posted 11 victories in ’03, and Dave Clawson (’13) and Dino Babers (’15) both recorded a 10-win season. The program isn’t far from two large cities (Detroit and Cleveland), but the athletic department expenses ($23.8 million according to USA Today) were the lowest in the MAC.
6. Miami (Ohio)
“The Cradle of Coaches” had 13 winning seasons from 1991-05 but has recorded only one since 2006. While the program’s performance in the MAC has slipped, Miami has plenty of history to make this an attractive job. Bo Schembechler, Sid Gilman, Ara Parseghian, Woody Hayes, Bill Mallory, Randy Walker and Terry Hoeppner have each patrolled the sideline in Oxford. Additionally, Rams coach Sean McVay played for the program a receiver from 2005-07. The RedHawks rank near the top of the MAC in expenses ($36 million), and there’s a fertile recruiting territory to tap into in the state of Ohio, including the Cincinnati area.
5. Western Michigan
Western Michigan is one of only four teams from the Group of 5 ranks to play in a New Year’s Six bowl since the CFB Playoff was created in 2014. This program has seven overall bowl trips since 2006 and boasted the MAC’s highest athletic department expenditures ($38.5 million) in ’18. Four major cities – Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago – are each less than a five-hour drive away.
4. Central Michigan
Central Michigan lags behind its in-state rival Western Michigan in expenses (38.5 million to 31.8), but this program has a higher winning percentage (.545 to .524). The Chippewas bottomed out with a 1-11 mark in 2018. However, Central Michigan isn’t far removed from an 11-win season in 2009 and a nine-win mark in ’06.
Ohio had only two bowl appearances from 1962-05, but coach Frank Solich has transformed the Bobcats into one of the MAC’s most consistent programs. Solich has guided Ohio to nine bowl games over the last 10 years and has claimed four MAC East titles since 2006. The state of Ohio provides a solid recruiting base, and the program isn’t far from large cities such as Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Solich was the MAC’s fourth-highest paid coach ($580,331) in 2018.
The state of Ohio produces plenty of talent for Toledo to recruit, and there’s a strong tradition of winning while also producing high-powered offenses. Additionally, coach Jason Candle was the MAC’s highest-paid coach at $1.1 million in 2018. The Rockets led the conference by averaging 20,745 fans per game last season.
1. Northern Illinois
The Huskies have dominated the MAC in recent seasons, with eight overall trips to the conference title game (with four titles) since 2005. The city of Chicago is less than 70 miles away, providing Northern Illinois with a talent-rich area on the recruiting trail. Additionally, the facilities rank among the best in the MAC. Despite the success on the gridiron, the Huskies ranked 11th in the conference in expenses ($25.7 million in 2018).