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Wake Forest is not a step up for Coach Mack

Coach Mack has been linked with the open job at Wake Forest but, unlike Skip Prosser in 2001, this time it is not a step up in any way.

Hopefully, this man is not on his way out.
Hopefully, this man is not on his way out.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

When Skip Prosser, God rest him, left for Wake Forest he did so with the kind of class and tact that have made the man revered at both institutions. Coach Prosser managed to leave without inducing any of the antipathy or disgust that Coach Thad Matta and Coach Sean Miller did with their fly by night departures. No, when Skip left for Wake Forest, he did it the right way.

Skip also left for what was unquestionably a better job. Xavier was on the way up, but Prosser had taken over a team that played in Atlantic 10 that was much weaker than the conference that Xavier left last year. Rutgers and West Virginia had just left, Xavier was just arriving from the MCC, UMass was in place as the conference power, and multiple bid NCAA tournaments were still a thing of the future. Prosser helped build the Atlantic 10 into what it is becoming, but he left at a time when Wake Forest was on the way up and the ACC was, quite clearly, a cut far above the conference where Xavier was.

That is no longer the case. According to Forbes 2013 list, Xavier is the 18th most valuable college basketball program in the nation. (Based on, in order of weight, are basketball revenue spent on athlete scholarships and other academic programming, profit kept by the athletic department to support athletic endeavors and conference revenue generated via NCAA tournament play). That came out before Xavier made the jump to the Big East, but they still outpaced Wake, who didn't even appear on the list. Xavier most likely passed Wake in basketball revenue in the 2011 season, again before Xavier's jump and before Wake's current collapse.

Wake remains in the ACC, where it has become an also-ran in recent years. This year was the team's first winning campaign in four years, they've not seen the NCAA tournament since 2010 (when Dino Gaudio was fired after going 20-11), and they sport the smallest athletic budget in the conference. Speaking in a strictly basketball sense, Wake Forest is miles behind Xavier, something confirmed by the 68-53 Xavier posted over the Deacons this year. Add to that Xavier's best recruiting class of all time and one that most reputable sources have in the top 15 nationwide, and the gap is likely to grow, and expansively, in the immediate future.

So the Xavier is more valuable and the better built basketball squad, but what of the prestige level of both programs? Xavier is in a new Big East that, loath as we are to admit, is not quite as dominant as it once was. That said, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, St. John's, Providence, Creighton and Xavier were all in with a chance to make the NCAAs this year. The ACC topped that by sending six teams (Duke, UNC, NC State, Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse) but Wake Forest wasn't even close to being one of those teams, finishing 11th in the conference at 6-12. So the ACC was more successful this year, but the conferences are close, and hopefully addition to the Big East will only help the cause.

It's hard to see then, what the pull of Wake Forest would be for Coach Mack. Yes, the football revenue generated by the school could be used to create a salary so high that no reasonable person would say no, but that wasn't the case last time Wake went coach hunting. Basketball wise, there's simply no comparison, as Xavier is miles ahead, and there is no longer a real prestige gap between where Xavier plays and the ACC. Why, then, would Coach Mack take a step down to take the Wake Forest job?