Just how attractive is the University of Wisconsin women's basketball coaching job?
The easy answer is that it's one of the four best jobs open, along with the other BCS schools with vacancies — LSU, Virginia and Washington.
The more nuanced answer is that attractiveness is in the eye of the beholder.
To an upwardly mobile mid-major coach or an accomplished assistant at a major program with a winning tradition, UW could be a dream job.
To an established winner at a BCS program, probably not so much.
"I think, without a doubt, it's a job that will attract a lot of interest," Chris Hansen, co-founder of ESPN HoopGurlz, said.
But the level of interest likely will come down to money.
Lisa Stone, who was dismissed after eight years as UW coach, received $281,146 base pay this season, according to the UW System's Redbook publication. That's not exactly chump change, but in the modern world of big-time college women's basketball, it is somewhat below average.
Hansen estimated that on the low end of BCS conferences, women's coaches earn a little less than $200,000. Climbing the ladder, he pointed out that Arizona State, a mid-range Pac-10 program, pays coach Charli Turner Thorne $477,000 annually. Many of the established BCS coaches are making $500,000 or more, with powerhouse coaches such as Geno Auriemma of Connecticut, Pat Summitt of Tennessee and Kim Mulkey of Baylor earning more than $1 million.
While there is talk UW could boost the salary another $100,000 or so, it still would probably limit the field.
"A salary like $290,000, that might be low-ball in the Big 12," Hansen said. "But in a lot of other conferences, that's real money. That's life-changing money for an assistant coach or a mid-major coach. And some of these mid-major coaches are wired for a new challenge."
That someone could be UW-Green Bay coach Matt Bollant. All indications are he is the front-runner for the job and it would be hard to imagine a better job interview than the Phoenix's victory over Michigan State in the NCAA tournament on Tuesday. The win gave the program its first Sweet 16 appearance in its history.
Bollant took over a successful program when Kevin Borseth left for Michigan, and he's taken it to a new level in compiling a 117-16 record over four seasons. Green Bay is 4-0 against Big Ten Conference teams this season, including a 69-43 rout of UW.
His resume, which includes five seasons as an assistant under former UW assistant Kathi Bennett at Evansville and Indiana, makes Bollant an obvious choice to national observers.
"He's done an outstanding job," said Dan Olson, a former college coach who operates Collegiate Girls Basketball Report scouting service. "That would probably be a good fit for them because he's an in-state guy and he's succeeded ... not at the BCS level, but he's playing with the BCS big boys."
Bollant also fits the UW pay profile. According to the Redbook, he has a base salary of $95,911 this season.
Another coach who could be looking to cash in on his success is Xavier's Kevin McGuff, who has led the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament six times in nine years while compiling a 214-73 record. Xavier is 59-7 in the past two years, led by All-America players Ta'Shia Phillips and Amber Harris, but was upset on its home court by Louisville in the NCAA regional final.
"Kevin McGuff is riding the wave of having two stud post players on his team," Olson said. "He's a hot name, no doubt, to get a BCS-level job."
Olson said a couple of other hot mid-major candidates could be Joe Foley of Arkansas-Little Rock, which lost to UW-Green Bay in the NCAA first round on Sunday, and Curt Miller of Bowling Green.
"Joe Foley is one of the best college basketball coaches on the market anywhere," Olson said. "If I was the (athletic director) at Wisconsin, I'd have Joe Foley on my short list."
Other coaches who figure to attract some attention include Kelly Graves of Gonzaga, Karen Aston of Charlotte, Tonya Cardosa of Temple, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson of Albany, Joe Legerski of Wyoming and Sytia Messer of Tennessee Tech.
Marquette coach Terri Mitchell also has some supporters, coming off a 24-9 season that included a first-round NCAA tournament win. But that success came on the heels of successive 17-16 seasons.
What about a hot assistant from a major program? Hansen thinks not.
"What you will not see is a high-profile assistant," he said. "I think that hasn't really worked out in a lot of places."
Should UW buck that trend, some of the names that could surface include Penn State's Kia Damon, who coached under Borseth at Green Bay for two years; Dawn Plitzuweit, a Wisconsin native who coached for Borseth at Green Bay and Michigan; Kelly Bond of Texas A&M; and Michelle Marciniak, a former South Carolina assistant who starred as a player at Tennessee and in the WNBA.
The key for whoever gets the job, Olson said, will be recruiting.
"I think Lisa did a pretty good job, to be honest with you," he said. "They're in a pretty tough league. It boils down to one thing — you've got to have players.
"Wisconsin has pulled some pretty good players. Are they among the nation's elite players? No. If you're going to step on the national stage and be among the prominent teams in the country, you have to have elite players."
Stone's successor will also have to live up to increasingly high standards.
"You can't hover around .500 anymore and make that kind of money," Hansen said. "It's not that Lisa did a bad job, but for that kind of money you have to be in the NCAA tournament."