It has been five days since the Cincinnati Bearcats ended a surprisingly successful basketball season with a first-round NCAA Tournament loss to Iowa. There are no games presently for which to prepare, but there has been plenty of activity during that period.Because no college program operates in a vacuum. All around, there are head coaching jobs opening that need to be filled: Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt. That’s just the SEC. Nebraska from the Big Ten opened Tuesday but appears to have in mind Fred Hoiberg. Washington State already is closing in on San Francisco coach Kyle Smith. UCLA has been in the market since December and still does not have a final decision. Perhaps the most remarkable element of Cronin’s success is he has given the Cincinnati administration precisely what was requested when he was hired in 2006: a winning basketball program devoid of concerns about academic performance and offcourt conduct. UC basketball had an 838 APR score out of 1000 in 2005-06, the year before Cronin arrived, which led the NCAA to dock the program a scholarship and could have triggered more serious penalties if not corrected. That number has been above 900 in every season since 2007-08 and above 950 in every season since 2010.It is more than surprising Cincinnati would wish to gamble with the future of its program so soon after the $87 million refurbishment of the Shoemaker Center, a project that benefited greatly by the energy Cronin spent on helping to raise the funds.Cincinnati at last has an arena worthy of the program Cronin rebuilt. It may not have that program for long if remains a spectator to this offseason’s enterprise. MORE: Cincinnati basketball back in same uneasy spot after first-round exitWhat has Cincinnati done to protect its future interests given market conditions?Not a lot. Probably not enough.Iowa State issued a release Monday announcing coach Steve Prohm — an Alabama graduate who figured to be fancied by the Crimson Tide – had been granted a three-year contract extension carrying his term to the 2024-25 season. That’s six seasons from now.Cincinnati has been dormant since presenting a new contract offer to Mick Cronin last autumn that functionally called for a pay cut, according to a source close to the program.Although it’s obvious Cincinnati does not have the same financial resources as those athletic departments with Power 5 football programs, the offer did not offset that pay decrease with an extended term. The obvious solution for a program in this circumstance is to offer Cronin an excuse not to leave, a term long enough to make it clear he wouldn’t have to think about what might be possible in a place like Westwood.MARCH MADNESS 2019:Ranking every Sweet 16 team’s chance to win it allIt would be a stretch to say Cronin is the best coach Cincinnati has ever had. Ed Jucker won two NCAA championships and reached the Final Four three times. Bob Huggins reached 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments, one Final Four and led the Bearcats to the No. 1 ranking multiple times.It undoubtedly is true that Cronin has been the coach Cincinnati needed in a situation whose peril often is overlooked. He took over the program one year after its elevation from Conference USA to the much more competitive Big East — and one year after its roster had been imploded by the clumsy handling of Huggins’ departure. Within five years he’d built the program to NCAA Tournament level and then maintained that excellence through the relative demotion to the American Athletic Conference.The departures of Jucker and Huggins did not reflect well on the university. Jucker resigned just two years after losing the 1963 NCAA title game to Loyola, saying the pressures of the job were affecting his health. Huggins’ dismissal in 2005 was a colossal mess, with recruiting imploded by the refusal through more than a year of then-president Nancy Zimpher to commit to either to removing him or making it clear he would be retained. By the time a decision was reached, Cincinnati was pretty much out of Bearcats.The inertia of current AD Mike Bohn could produce another disappointing departure, as UCLA and Alabama both flirt with the idea of hiring away Cronin, as noted by Yahoo! Sports in its most recent article about the college basketball “coaching carousel.” It’s also likely Virginia Tech — whose athletic director once was Cronin’s boss at Cincinnati — would call were Buzz Williams to accept an expected offer from Texas A&M.MORE: Man with perfect March Madness bracket reveals strategyCronin grew up in Cincinnati, attended UC and has deep family ties there. But no coach can afford to be entirely sentimental about a business that can be so capricious.As recently as two years ago, there were four programs within a two-hour drive featuring coaches who made habitual NCAA Tournament appearances from programs a half-step below the top of the college athletics food chain: Cronin at Cincinnati, Chris Mack at Xavier, Archie Miller at Dayton and Chris Holtmann at Butler.Cincinnati could afford to be a bit less proactive then. The other three coaches in the neighborhood could distract potential suitors for Cronin. And they did.Now Mack is earning more than $4 million annually at Louisville. Holtmann is well over $3 million a year at Ohio State, and Miller is beating that at Indiana.According to USA Today, Cronin is the 49th-highest paid coach in Division I men’s basketball. He earned less in 2018-19 than 20 coaches who missed the NCAA Tournament – and less than five who lost their jobs.Cronin and Cincinnati averaged 30 victories over the past three seasons. They have not missed the NCAA Tournament since 2010. Only Kansas, Duke, Michigan State and Gonzaga have longer streaks of consecutive appearances. Those four all have had the benefit of stable conference situations as they’ve continued to ring up NCAA trips.MORE MARCH MADNESSWhy your team won’t advance to the Final Four The Bearcats won the first AAC regular-season title in 2014, and again in 2018. Since 2012, Cincinnati has reached four conference tournament championship games: the Big East in 2012, then the American in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The Bearcats won the last two. What those in the game understand is the conference tournament is the ultimate test of coaching skill because the opposition is so familiar with player tendencies and program systems. The adjustments coaches make within games and during the short turnarounds when playing on consecutive days are crucial. That’s why you see such acknowledged masters as Oregon’s Dana Altman, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Michigan’s John Beilein and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski so often succeeding in these events.