Keith Dambrot MACsed out

By Steve DiMiceli

When Ron Everhart was fired, Keith Dambrot quickly became my favorite long shot candidate to become the new coach at Duquesne. While I didn't think there was much of chance of him coming, I was impressed with his track record. Needless to say, I was surprised and excited to find out he was a real target only to have my heart ripped out when he turned down a reported 7 year, $650,000 a season offer to stay with the Zips. Since he's back in the mix with a likely bigger offer coming, I see no reason why he should stay at Akron unless you're counting that whole loyalty, hometown pride thing. Dambrot has taken Akron as far as he is likely to take them in the MAC and it's time for a new challenge in the A-10.

While the MAC is a relatively minor player in college football, it is clearly a football - centric conference. Problem is they're some way off the big BCS players in terms of competition and revenue. In 2010, Akron took in $5.5 million a year from football compared to the $13.4 million Cincinnati generated with their very modest Big East program. From that $13.4 million, Cincinnati recorded a $2.2 million dollar profit while Akron broke even. FBS football consumes 22.5% of Akron's total athletics budget leaving only 8% for men's basketball. At Duquesne, Dambrot's program would be front and center. Before we even look at percentages, Duquesne spent a million more on men's basketball than Akron did in 2010 and that gap most certainly would  increase if Dambrot came to Duquesne. Looking at percentages, the Dukes dedicate nearly as much of their budget to men's basketball as Akron does on football. Duquense's FCS team consumes only 13% of the total athletics budget. Generally speaking, these numbers hold  true across the A-10 except of course that some schools have no football while some have FBS teams. Only St Bonaventure spent less on men's basketball in 2010 than Akron while only Ohio spent more on basketball than Akron in the MAC. The increased budget would allow Dambrot to recruit nationally (or even worldwide) even though his Akron recruits have generally came from the region.

Competively, Dambrot would be taking a huge step forward in the A-10. Dambrot has yet to win an NCAA tournament game, and staying in the MAC will make it difficult for him to get out of the first round. We know what Ohio did, but that was the exception rather than the norm. The MAC has won only 5 first round games going back to 2000 and they didn't win any from 2004-2009. There are couple of  reasons for that. First, the MAC has been a one bid league since 1999. Second, they haven't had a lower seed in any matchup since, well, I couldn't find one going back to 1992. Their average seed from 2000-2012 was between a 12 and a 13 and it's difficult to win when you're a significant underdog year in and year out. Last year, Akron got stuck with a 15.  In 2008, Kent St played as a 9 seed, the low water mark for conference in the last 20 years. This year the A-10 had 2 teams seeded 9 or better. I'm not suggesting the A-10 gets favorable seeding in the Dance relative to BCS conferences, but they certainly fair better in the amount of opportunities to get in and in their seeding compared to the MAC. The difference is simple, strength of schedule. This past season the A-10 was closer in conference RPI to the top rated Big 10 than the MAC was to the A-10.

However, I don't think Dambrot needs to look further than this past year for evidence that it's time to move on. Akron was the 54th RPI team in the country making them one of the higher RPI teams left out of the dance. I don't think many will argue that they deserved an at large bid to the NCAA's but they didn't even get to host an NIT game having to go on the road as a 5 seed. St Joe's, Dayton and Lasalle were all lower seeds even though they finished with RPI's 69, 81, and 87. I realize RPI is not the only factor in choosing seeding, but I see Akron as a 5 as disrespect.

While a move for Keith Dambrot to Duquesne doesn't look like a move forward at first glance, it does when you look at the whole picture. Dambrot will have a very difficult time accomplishing more than he already has in the MAC and while Duquesne has not been an NCAA player in over 30 years, he has a better chance of moving beyond the first round from the A-10. Duquesne's upside is huge compared to Akron's and Dambrot would be big man on campus. Increased budget and conference reputation will allow Dambrot  to get better talent. Much of the hard work has already been done for Dambrot. Duquesne's reputation has improved and a splash hire like him would improve it further. I think Dambrot can advance his career not just his personal fianances in Pittsburgh. I hope he realizes it, too.