Electoral College Basketball is an ongoing series here on Mid-Major Madness where we run a simulation of college basketball coaches campaigning for president. The fictional campaign aims to see just who would win if college basketball coaches ever wanted to take the jump from the coaching box to the Oval Office.
Make sure to keep checking back with us to see how this groundbreaking series plays out!
It has been a bit over a week since the last installment of Electoral College Basketball, and that translates to a month in campaign time. For those who haven’t read part one of the series yet, I suggest you do that before proceeding with this one.
If you don’t, you’re going to be very lost, and the rest of this post won’t make a bit of sense to you.
From here on out, I’m going to attempt to give you a recap of how things proceed on a day-by-day approach, highlighting the key points from each pivotal period on the trail. Since breaking news takes place each day, giving campaign dispatches in such a way is the only method that will provide you with the complete story.
As things last stood, the primaries had just started on May 1, and Tim Cluess and Robert Ehsan were leading in their respective primaries. Cluess, as one would expect from a frontrunner, received an endorsement from college basketball analyst and former Indiana coach Dan Dakich.
While positive news befell Cluess’ campaign on May 2, Oliver Purnell was met with protests outside of a campaign event. I honestly can’t imagine why anyone would have a beef with a coach who has never been fired before, a track record that would typically qualify one for the presidency.
A few days later, on May 5, Rick Stansbury gave a stirring speech to a packed audience that helped give him a much-needed momentum boost in the Allenite primaries. Sitting in the middle of the pack, the WKU coach needed something to get his name out there, and this speech about the issue of transfers seemed to have lit a spark.
On May 7, Dan Majerle put forth his policy position on the issue of coaching salaries, and the positive coverage was manifold. For days, the stance he took dominated the headlines as voters responded positively to the Grand Canyon coach.
At the same time that Majerle was receiving positive press coverage, Davidson coach Bob McKillop decided to take questions on The Shutdown Fullcast, a show hosted by SB Nation writers Spencer Hall, Ryan Nanni, and Jason Kirk. It is yet to be known how this appearance on a college football podcast will play out for McKillop.
It took until May 8 for a coach to break out a key campaign surrogate, with Robert Ehsan deciding it was time to call in former Maryland coach Gary Williams, a man he coached under for many seasons. However, this plan might have backfired, as Williams was met with the same fate as Purnell only days earlier and Scott Cross on the very same date: noisy protesters.
After only one week on the trail, Dan Majerle had rocketed up to first place in the Allenite primaries, thanks in large part to his name recognition and his lauded speech earlier in the week. For the Naismithians, the Dakich-endorsed Tim Cluess continues to surge, cementing his frontrunner status. He is leading in multiple large states on the map.
Oliver Purnell is — sigh — last.
When May 10 rolled around, Florida Gulf Coach head coach Joe Dooley decided to call in an old friend and former Eagles coach to help him out. Andy Enfield, the USC coach-turned-campaign-surrogate, provided a much-needed boost to Dooley, who was struggling to break out of the middle of the pack in a crowded field.
On that same day, McKillop was met with shock as Steph Curry — his former player and current campaign surrogate — was faced with boos and jeers at a campaign event. How could one of the NBA’s best, most popular players be met with such criticism? Surely McKillop for America could not be pleased.
The next day, Matthew Dellavedova came through big time for Randy Bennett, campaigning for his former coach in the first-in-the-nation New Hampshire Primary. While all of that was going on, Mark Pope was busy taking questions on SportsCenter, shining through as a wise voice to the viewers at home.
However, on May 14, Greg Kampe appeared on Mike Francesa’s radio show in order to appeal to campaign donors and voters in the pivotal state of New York. While doing so, he made a gaffe while talking about Horizon League expansion, leading to negative headlines galore for the Oakland coach.
Nevertheless, it was all one-upped by Rick Stansbury, who encountered backlash after advocating for a four-point line to be implemented in college basketball. Those interviewed by prominent pollsters punished Stansbury for this position, as he fell to last place in the Allenite primaries.
Midway through the month, a bit of color began to find its way onto the electoral map as candidates started to form leads in various states.
Thus far, one thing appears certain: Dan Majerle is a force to be reckoned with.
In the back half of the month, Rick Byrd called in the big guns, as noted Belmont Bruins fan Vince Gill appeared at Byrd campaign events, performing some of the country singer’s bestselling songs.
While that cheery aspect was ongoing, Levelle Moton attempted to take hold of North Carolina, one of the most sought-after states in the primaries. However, in order to do so, he had to go after Bob McKillop, who also calls the Tar Heel State home. If either of them are to win the nomination, they must cement their status as the true leader of North Carolina.
As May 19 rolled around, good and bad found the candidates, as Phil Martelli took part in College Gameday, wowing both panelists and viewers alike with his mastery of the many issues of the day. However, Travis Ford — in his first real campaign event — was met with ill feelings from voters who were not impressed by his campaign surrogate, the Billiken mascot. In fact, many were terrified by the creature, who took no part in answering questions or speaking, for that matter.
Suddenly, on May 21, Tim Cluess found some hardship of his own as he found himself embedded in a scandal after he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. While on the show, Cluess was stumped by Fallon, who asked the coach what exactly a ‘gael’ was. It was not the finest moment for the former Naismithian frontrunner.
I say former because after his appearance on College Gameday, Phil Martelli rocketed up the polls, gaining almost a whole percentage point in a week. It might not sound like much, but every bit counts in a field this crowded.
As May 23 came around, the first ads hit the airwaves, with most of them taking the form of attack ads. While some worked like a charm (Majerle, Stansbury, and Tommy Amaker all had successful ad rollouts), other candidates like Dooley and Ehsan saw their ads backfire on them.
Regardless, Joe Dooley made his way back in good graces after a May 25 appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, one of late night’s top-rated programs. While there, the two talked about experience before partaking in some tweet reading (I don’t know what goes on on these shows because I refuse to watch them now that Craig Ferguson is gone). It was a massive boost for Dooley, who suffered a rough start to the week.
The day after next, Moton captured some of the energy that Stansbury had early on, captivating audiences with a speech about the importance of quality leadership. The oratory resonated with voters, who carried the applause for 12 solid minutes. It was something quite novel on an ever-changing campaign.
Oh, this also happened:
No joke: the simulator came up with that.
Finally, as the month came to a close, it was Mark Few who began to play to his base, appearing on the Mid-Major Madness podcast. Trying to rally the mid-major fans who admire one of the game’s most successful coaches, Few discussed everything from athletic department spending to his favorite Simpsons character. It was a riveting interview that capped off a whirlwind first month in a campaign that still has many surprises left in store.
So there you have it. One month is in the books, and we’ve seen everything from pie-throwing to protests to rousing speeches to attack ads.
As the month of May has drawn to a close, the primary map has finally begun to fill out. Many states now have frontrunners in their primaries and caucuses, which will not take place for another 8 months.
Since the first contests are many months away, the percentages seen in the images above don’t actually matter all that much. After all, each candidate is within a stone’s throw of one another. At any moment, a scandal could drop and the frontrunner could become the one bringing up the rear (just ask Greg Kampe and Rick Stansbury, who are both in last place in their primary polls after being 4th & 1st, respectively, at the beginning of the month).
So, as the time goes on, we shall see whether or not the coaches at the top can maintain their position, and whether or not those at the bottom can make a move. There’s still plenty of time to spend, funds to raise, and endorsements to land.
I hope you’ll stick around to witness just how this entertaining campaign plays out.