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WKU has reached new heights but a lack of built-in advantages prevents it from being a premier CUSA job

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All WKU has done is win. So why am I still not convinced this is a premier job in CUSA?

Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

Since joining the FBS Western Kentucky has ascended up the G5 ranks, reaching an apex last season with a CUSA Championship and a Miami Beach Bowl victory.

If you are judging WKU's attractiveness based on their track record of success then WKU is one of the three best jobs in CUSA. Since 2011 WKU has gone 42-22. Their head coaches over that span have been Willie Taggart, Bobby Petrino, and Jeff Brohm. They all have been successful as Taggart and Petrino have parlayed the WKU gig into bigger jobs. It's safe to say that if Brohm is able to continue winning he will eventually do the same.

The last two hires made by WKU Athletic Director Todd Stewart have been golden, as Petrino and Brohm have elevated WKU football's profile. But eventually Stewart is going to have to make another hire and if folks around CUSA are still skeptical about WKU's football program then chances are the position has not quite arrived to the point where you can look past the disadvantages this job has to offer.

PROS

  • Look into WKU's trophy case and you will see that WKU has established a winning tradition in recent years. In a conference that's filled with a bunch of teams that can't come close to WKU's resume that goes a long way on the recruiting trail.
  • WKU has proved to be a nice stepping stone gig. If you win here, people will come calling.

CONS

  • Not a strong local recruiting base.
  • Fan base isn't the strongest. Didn't come close to selling out the CUSA Championship Game.
  • Basketball will always be number one in the state and perception around the conference is that WKU is a basketball school.

Making the case for why WKU should be higher: Fletcher Keel, WKU beat writer for UDD.

If for no other reason, the recent successes WKU has had should put them at or near the top of the list. What it lacks (as listed above) is made up for in that 42-22 record since 2011 Cyrus notes above. Since the program became bowl eligible for the first time at the FBS level in 2011, it really hasn't come down to earth, and has essentially reached its peak with an 11-2 record, a Top 25 ranking and a CUSA title.

Now, sure, WKU still has a long way to go to "earn" the respect of some CUSA mainstays like Louisiana Tech or Marshall, but the Tops are making a darn good case as one of the best programs in the conference, if not all of G5 football.

However, having said that, with the exception of 2011's magical turnaround and 2012's run to the Hilltoppers' first ever bowl appearance, all of this success has been had with Brandon Doughty at quarterback. 2016 will prove if the magic was Doughty or Brohm (or a combination of the two), but still, the Tops have made noise and deserve to truly be a top three coaching job in CUSA. If nothing else, the previous two coaches have jumped to the AAC and ACC, and before 2016 even began, Brohm was linked to the Illinois job. If you're a coach and you want to bolster your resume, come wave a red towel for a bit.

If you're playing NCAA Football in an online dynasty...

You choose WKU because the roster is loaded with talent at the skill positions. Even with what would be at best an 80 overall rating player at quarterback, Leon Allen, D'Andre Ferby, Taywon Taylor, and Anthony Wales should at least have an 85 overall rating at the running back and receiver positions.

But picking a school that doesn't have a great recruiting pipeline is worrisome. That is unless you are that guy and used the time saver feature Pipeline State Addition. You are that guy, and now you have Texas as one of your pipeline states. Win at all costs, even if that means spending your own money to give you an advantage over your peers. Sounds like EA Sports was just giving us a dose of how college sports is really like with that feature doesn't it.

If you're choosing this job in real life...

You love that WKU has established itself as a place where coaches have not only succeeded, but have been recognized for it and have landed bigger jobs as a result. The infrastructure has already been built so the hard stuff is out of the way.

You just have to pick up where the previous guys have left off and recruit your butt off.

Verdict

This was the toughest job to evaluate when making the list. Some UDD writers told me WKU should be much higher while others were in favor of UAB being placed ahead of WKU in the rankings.

In some aspects WKU reminds me a lot of the Oregon job circa 2012. Pac 12 rivals couldn't wait for Chip Kelly to leave because they believed it was unsustainable for Oregon to continue winning at the rate Kelly had them. CUSA folks feel the same way about how Brohm has WKU going.

Brohm's excellent coaching, coupled with the talent he has inherited from the Willie Taggart era, along with his own ability to evaluate players, has put WKU on a tier above everyone else in CUSA. But the troika of Taggart-Petrino-Brohm has only occurred over six years. That is not enough time for me to believe this job is a bad hire away from bottoming out.

With few built-in advantages compared to the rest of the conference I'm not convinced the WKU job should be near the top of the league on the basis of what the last few hires have done.

Best jobs in CUSA Countdown:

14. Rice

13. Charlotte

12. MTSU

11. FIU

10. UAB

9. WKU