Does SLU Need to Evaluate Its ROI on Travis Ford?

Just to make it totally clear: I like Travis Ford! I think he’s done a lot of good for SLU basketball and I’ve had a lot of fun rooting for his teams over the years. I’m still 100% rooting for him and his team to have a magical run in Brooklyn this season. I promise you I am not a Travis Ford hater. That being said, someone needs to write an article like this and there’s just not a ton of people regularly writing about SLU, so here goes.

Travis Ford is the highest paid coach in the Atlantic 10 Conference. He has been at SLU for seven years. In those seven years, he’s been to one NCAA Tournament, after winning the A10 Tournament in 2019. He has earned zero at-large NCAA Tournament bids. He has never finished better than fourth place in the A10. He has a 4-10 record against Dayton and a 2-5 record against VCU (shoutout to @WestPineBills for the statistical assist here).

At this point in Travis Ford’s tenure, it is very hard to say that he has met the expectations that should come with being the highest-paid coach in the A10. It’s hard to say that SLU is getting a good return on investment for paying Ford as much as they are right now. Admittedly, Ford has faced his share of bad luck, from COVID to Javonte Perkins’ torn ACL. However, this year was supposed to be the year that all was redeemed. NCAA Tournament or bust. While the season is not over, it has emphatically been a bust. SLU is more mediocre than ever. A season that started with top-25 buzz has become a team that isn’t even a top 100 team in college basketball by just about any measurement. Travis Ford’s supposed best SLU team yet has become his most mediocre team yet.

The A10 is weaker than it ever has been before, yet a team that returns Yuri Collins, Gibson Jimerson and Francis Okoro, brings back Javonte Perkins, and bring in Javon Pickett looks likely to just barely snag a double-bye (and that’s not even a given). One of the oldest teams in the country is a threat to blow any double-digit lead they may acquire. It was supposed to be the most exciting season of SLU basketball in a long time. Instead, it has been a miserable slog that has fans wondering if the team will manage to find a new rock bottom with every new game. It’s not just SLU’s record, but it’s the manner in which SLU has achieved said record that has made this season so bad.

The 2022-23 SLU Billikens have been extremely disappointing, and they’ve been disappointing in a way that makes it very hard to believe they’ll turn it around at this point. Hopefully I’m wrong and they find some magic in the next few weeks that brings them an A10 Tournament crown. Right now, however, rooting for SLU has been a joyless struggle, waiting for whatever good things that happen to inevitably become undone sometime in the future.

At this point, Travis Ford should be on the hot seat. I’m not saying he should lose his job at the end of the season, but he is not currently meeting expectations. SLU loses a ton next season and I’m sure Travis Ford, ace recruiter that he is, could put together a solid, talented team that can compete for a double-bye and maybe wind up on the wrong side of the bubble. That’s not bad for a rebuilding year. The issue is, I’m finding it increasingly harder to believe that a Travis Ford-coached SLU team could ever do better than that.

Travis Ford has brought a lot of all-time great Billikens to SLU, generational players like Jordan Goodwin and Yuri Collins, and he’s never finished better than fourth. He’s never qualified for an at-large bid. Seven years is a substantial sample size.

SLU has big expectations for its basketball program. It has first-class facilities, it has shown it is not afraid to spend money, it has a NIL collective that looks promising. It should be easier to win at SLU than it ever has before. Travis Ford has done a great job helping turn SLU into a place where it should be easy to win and I really appreciate his efforts to do so. However, considering Ford’s track record and how this season has gone, it’s totally fair for Chris May to consider whether Travis Ford is the right coach to try to take SLU to the next level. It’s not sustainable for the highest-paid coach in the A10 to never finish better than fourth place in seven years. This year was NCAAT or bust. It’s looking like bust this year and that means it is time for SLU to start asking itself some tough questions about Travis Ford.

Jack Godar covers Saint Louis University for A10Talk. He is a St. Louis native who grew up rooting for SLU, but is a graduate of College of the Holy C...