Recruiting to a school with a name that sounds like an online trucking certification program that plays in a middle-school gym is impossible. That being said, Coach Jim Engles has worked miracles in Newark by building a talented team, winning games, and convincing the administration to build a new arena.
Sac State has the budget and business model of an AAU team (head coach has to fund-raise) and the gym looks like it should be hosting the California Middle School Championships. If it wasn’t for the location and easy admission standards, Sacramento State might have ranked #1 on this list.
You don’t need to dig deep into their athletics business to understand Nicholls State. Nine money games against BCS schools in one season tells you everything you need to know about this job.
In pursuit of the St, Joseph's business model, this college, with just over 1,200 students, gave in to Division I peer pressure. Mainly because their peers were already there, Wofford, Elon, and Gardner-Webb all recruit from the same high schools and have a big head-start on Presbyterian.
UT Rio Grande Valley
While benefiting from the Texas school system, and an easy drive to popular South Padre Island, UTRGV must endure a conference travel schedule (Bakersfield, Seattle, Chicago) eating up their budget and impacting the athlete’s academics. If the country of Mexico were known for basketball talent, UTRGV would have a leg up!
Budget and location (Pocatello, ID) make this one tough gig! No recruiting base and the closest decent sized commercial airport is in Salt Lake City, UT. To make things more difficult, the Bengals play their home games at an indoor football stadium, which leaves a lot to be desired in terms of atmosphere.
19 (’09-’10) 15 (’10 - ’11) 12 (’11-’12) 11 (’12-’13) 6 (’13-’14) 3 (’14-’15) The teams total wins over the past few years reads like a count-down to Armageddon in Orono, Maine. The basketball facility is a twenty-minute drive off campus!!!! Righting the wrongs at Maine is no quick fix.
Not much in Farmville, Virginia. The name alone might scare off an athlete from a bigger city. Facilities were a stretch for Division II and little has changed in that department. Virginia has become a basketball state and unfortunately, the Lancers have a long way to go to be able to compete at the Division I level.
A small school ranking 10th in state athletics behind Cumberland University and Carson-Newman University …Who?? …exactly, UT Martin is an afterthought…or are they? Picked second in their division in the competitive OVC, Schroyer seems to be making unbelievable strides on a shoestring budget and high school facilities.
Extremely difficult admissions and academics standards in a competitive league are challenging enough. Losing to programs like in-state Incarnate Word will not help. Still, Rice appears to be on the right Rhoades to recovery. Time will tell.
Another geographical oddity! Close to nothing and frozen winters that simply beat you down. Schmidt has done an admirable job with the Bonnies in spite of the many obstacles. Hard to sustain any momentum, as the A-10 gets better and better.
Tuition increase + UMBC must reduce its total spending by $3.6 million + A 2% cost-of-living adjustment increase = subtraction by addition. UMBC men’s basketball has averaged only 6 wins per season over the last 5 and is sitting at 5 wins currently. This makes recruiting almost impossible!
A troubled athletics department from top to bottom, including a $10 million federal lawsuit. Macomb, Illinois isn’t exactly a popular destination either. Add budget cuts and virtually no basketball tradition and you have a major challenge at WIU.
It has been widely reported that Penn State would kick their own basketball team off their court for career fairs and concerts over the years. Coaching staff ranks as the lowest-paid in the Big Ten and let’s face it…Penn State has been a football school for as long as any of us can remember. Unfortunately, the Big Ten is a basketball conference.
With virtually no success on the hardwood in the last fourty years, the administrative and coaching issues, and the rest of the country plucking local right out of their back yard, there is no mystery as to why the Scarlet Knights remain in the red.
San Jose State
While the location seems great, there is virtually no basketball tradition at SJSU and entirely too many options in the Bay Area for sports fans. Their budget is at the bottom of the league and winning seasons have come few and far between over the years.
Enrollment guidelines and a commitment to serve after graduation render this program a calling rather than a recruiting process. Service academics are fighting the good fight on multiple battlefields.
The move to the ACC has been less than kind to the Eagles recently. Much of this can be attributed to the powerful additions to the conference over the last few years. Simply put, Boston College is a VERY difficult job in the ACC. When you look around the conference schedule to find the easy wins and find none...you are it.
Not so long ago, the head coach had to double as the Athletic Director and there were only 2 full-time assistant coaches. APSU’s budget ranks near the bottom of the league and yet if you look at the history of the program, Dave Loos has done some pretty remarkable things.
Only one 20-win season and zero conference championships in their 34 years of Division I play. Apathy towards basketball, an extremely paltry budget, and virtually no tradition makes the YSU job one of the most difficult challenges. Throw in the fact that there are 12 other Division I basketball programs in Ohio and you have what some feel is a no-win situation.
While the service academies should be listed with an asterisk, they are competing at the Division I level with the same goals as non-military schools. A difficult task, but one that Coach Spiker is handling quite well with 12 wins under his belt already this season.
Isolated in the northwestern United States in the tiny town of Pullman, WA, Washington State sits in the least desirable PAC 12 city. With a budget that traditionally ranks at the bottom of the conference, Wazzu is a Big Sky job competing in PAC-12. We must give enormous credit to the coaches who have won there, Washington State is the most challenging job in the Power 5.
Your GPS may say Charleston, but not the Charleston on the coast. EIU IS Charleston, Illinois! Additionally, financial problems have forced all employees to take pay-cuts; thus budgets have taken a hit. Spoonhour has a difficult task and making the absolute best of it!
A Division I military school not named Army, Navy, or Air Force. Citadel competes in the Southern Conference where they and VMI are the only 2 programs with such extreme challenges. Nevertheless, Citadel at least has the city of Charleston, SC to sell to recruits.
Selling the military life to prospective student-athletes without the prestige of the US Service Academy makes this one difficult hoop job. Duggar Baucom brought a unique style that manufactured some wins, however, he bolted to a similar situation (Citadel), only by the beach.
Our national panel voted on the most challenging jobs in division 1 relative to academics, university support, financials, history, location, facilities, travel, respective leagues, salaries, recruiting and more.