Thursday afternoon, Wichita State announced that it had agreed with coach Gregg Marshall on the terms of a contract extension. That extension was unconventional but nonetheless impressive: The school structured a seven-year automatic rollover term in Marshall's contract, which will now take him through 2018 and will renew with each passing season. It's a bit like former Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt's deal, albeit without a massive $7 million buyout attached.
According to the school, the contract "recognizes his success and how important he is to the Shockers' continuing excellence." Which is true. But I'll go one further: Marshall's extension officially cements a trend we've seen all offseason. Mid-major coaches are no longer jumping jobs.
Consider the names that have ignored high-major offers and worked out contract extensions with their current schools this offseason. Shaka Smart stayed at VCU. Chris Mooney stayed at Richmond. Brad Stevens, for the second time in two years, expressed no interest in leaving his Butler program for either NC State or Maryland. Xavier is no mid-major, but it made sure its long history as a developmental coaching stayover ended with a huge extension for coach Chris Mack.
Now, Marshall, who might have had both the NC State and Texas A&M jobs had he wanted them, has followed through on the trend.
If you include Mack, that's five of the nation's hottest young coaching names, all of whom had successful seasons, two of whom went to the Final Four, all of whom decided to spurn lucrative gigs at high-major programs in favor of staying in their current gigs.
This wasn't universal; Jim Larranaga did leave George Mason for Miami, after all. But Larranaga's move would have been the rule in past years. In 2011, it was the exception.
The question is whether this is a one-season thing or a long-term systemic adjustment. Maybe mid-major coaches drew encouragement from Stevens, who went to back-to-back title games and lost his three most important players in two seasons but didn't seem remotely moved by the offers from around the country. Maybe coaches saw Smart's VCU team and its crazy Final Four run as proof that all you really need is a bid to the tournament. Maybe such coaches suddenly see their current programs as capable of the same success as the Dukes and Kansases and North Carolinas of the world. Maybe this is the rise of the mid-major unfolding before our eyes.
Or maybe this is just coincidence. Maybe several like-minded coaches all picked the same spring to become the nation's hottest coaching names. It could be that, too. Only time, and a few more coaching carousels, will settle the issue.
In the meantime, if I'm a fan of a perenially competitive mid-major school, I'm currently jumping for joy. The biggest disadvantage such schools have relative to high majors is money, namely the money to keep coaches from bolting for greener pastures every four or five years. If that disadvantage has been nullified, look out. All that "rise of the mid-major" talk will soon be far more than just talk.