By SETH STRINGER
Ever since Tamela McCorvey stepped down as NWF State's women's head basketball coach on March 6, athletic director Ramsey Ross has been flooded with emails, phone calls and texts.
This is one of the most coveted Juco positions in the country, after all. And the rising application count reflects that.
As of Friday that count reached 212, a number sure to rise until Ross cuts off the application process on Wednesday.
"We still have applications coming in every day," Ross said. "There's been a ton of interest and we feel we have some strong candidates. But more than quantity it's about quality. I've had conversations with a lot of different people, and we feel up until the deadline those conversations will continue as strong candidates continue to surface."
So what are the guidelines for the perfect hire? That's a loaded question, Ross said.
"We're looking for somebody with a wealth of contacts," Ross said. "We're looking for someone who has a large network in this business and can recruit talented players from not only across the country, but the world. And at the end of the day we're looking for someone who can win.
"You look at how difficult our conference is and whoever makes it out of our conference has a good shot to win it all."
"Difficult" undersells the strength of the Panhandle Conference, which this past year had all five teams ranked in the top 15 in the country for much of the season. Meanwhile Gulf Coast State defended its national championship last weekend and Chipola won it all in 2015. In the past decade alone the conference has produced five national championship teams.
The path a national title will only get tougher next year with the conference's three regional bids lessening to two.
"To me, in some respects it's a good thing because if you make the regional tournament you feel like you've really done something," Ross said. "With that said it just makes it harder."
This past season the Raiders finished last in the conference at 1-11, putting an end to four straight national tournament trips.
"We expect to compete for a conference championship and win conference championships," Ross said. "Are we going to do it every year? No. It's a process and the league's tough. But we always want to be in the upper echelon."
So what's the timeline on the new hire?
Ross, who is a part of a four-person hiring committee, hopes to narrow down the search to three to five applicants after Wednesday. Those candidates will have a sit-down interview and, by mid-to-late April, the college hopes to hire McCorvey's replacement.
"We don't want to fall too far behind in recruiting but we also want to get a good hire, the right hire," Ross said. "We don't want to rush this or settle. Even thought there's a little bit of urgency, it has to be the right fit."
The right fit for what many would consider a dream job.
"This is one of the best jobs in the country when it comes to women's basketball," Ross said. "We have a great facility, a great infrastructure and a great president and board of trustees that put an emphasis on success. We don't just have women's basketball to have women's basketball, or any sport here for that matter. Coaches across the country recognize this program and the league we play in.
"The bar doesn't get any higher. This is truly a coveted job."
Two-hundred applicants and counting.