Ranking the Nation's College Coaching Tandems

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Michigan State's duo claims the top spot

Ranking the Nation's College Coaching Tandems

Football is king in the SEC, but outside of pockets in Lexington and Gainesville, basketball never feels like a pressing issue.

The Big Ten, on the other hand, is where a balance between football and basketball success is trending upward. The league doesn’t have the names of the new ACC — Krzyzewski, Boeheim, Williams and soon Pitino — but Tom Izzo, Bo Ryan, John Beilein and Thad Matta stack up with any roster of basketball coaches in the country.

Football is starting to shed its image of unable to compete in the big game. Mark Dantonio led Michigan State to the Big Ten’s second Rose Bowl win since 2000. Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, despite two losses to finish the season, is on the short list of top football coaches after Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Our ranking of the top college football and basketball coaching tandems attempts to identify the programs that can expect to be competitive from August to April, from the start of football season to the end of basketball season.

The teams at the top of our national list can expect to have their fanbases at a fever pitch year round.

1. Michigan State
Football:
Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

The Spartans have a good chance of sweeping Big Ten coach of the year honors with Dantonio already receiving both the coaches’ and media awards with a Rose Bowl-winning season. Izzo will have some tough competition with the coaches at Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota for basketball honors, but the Spartans could still win a conference title despite a rash of injuries to key players. A healthy basketball squad this season would be in contention for Izzo’s second national title and seventh Final Four.

Related: Complete Big Ten coaching tandem rankings

2. Ohio State
Football:
Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer is well on his way to replicating his Florida tenure at Ohio State. The Buckeyes won his first 24 games before losses to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. This is not Matta’s most complete team on the basketball side, but he’s led Ohio State to at least a share of the conference regular season title five times, the conference tournament title four times and a Final Four appearance twice.

3. Duke
Football:
David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

On the basketball side, Duke has a Hall of Fame coach with four national championships, two Olympic gold medals and more than 900 wins. On the other side, the Blue Devils have a coach who has reached bowl games in back-to-back seasons with the ACC’s worst program. Krzyzewski is four years removed from his most recent national title, but as usual, he’s in contention for another one this season. Meanwhile, Cutcliffe led Duke to 10 wins and the ACC title game last season. One interesting parallel for these coaches: Both had health scares that sidelined them for a year (Krzyzewski’s back in 1995 and Cutcliffe’s heart in 2005), but both coaches are at the top of their games.

Related: Complete ACC coaching tandem rankings

4. Louisville
Football:
Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino

The Petrino/Pitino sound-alike duo is back in the Derby City. The first time around wasn’t so bad for Louisville. Petrino successfully guided the Cardinals into the Big East era with an Orange Bowl victory in his final season in 2006. Louisville is counting on Petrino to do the same as the Cards move into the ACC in 2014. Since 2009 alone, Pitino has led the basketball program to the 2013 national title, two Final Fours and three 30-win seasons. Certainly, it’s risky bringing Petrino — a career-long flight risk whose Arkansas tenure was bought down by ethical failings — back into the fold.

5. Oklahoma
Football:
Bob Stoops | Basketball: Lon Kruger

Stoops earned a victory lap in 2013 after his program went 11-2, finished at No. 6 in the AP poll and defeated Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. After two seasons of falling below expectations, Oklahoma had as much of a surprise season as the Sooners possibly could in 2013. Overall under Stoops, OU has finished in the top 10 nine times in 15 seasons. Facing sanctions when he was hired, Kruger needed only one season to rebuild Oklahoma into an NCAA Tournament team. Beyond Oklahoma, Kruger is the only coach to lead five different teams to the NCAA Tournament.

Related: Complete Big 12 coaching tandem rankings

6. Wisconsin
Football:
Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan’s consistency at Wisconsin has been astounding with NCAA Tournament bids and top four finishes in the Big Ten for every year of his tenure since 2001-02. Moreover, Ryan is 12-3 against Izzo and 13-1 against Michigan’s John Beilein. The only thing missing from his resume is a deep NCAA Tournament run. Andersen also kept the football program a consistent program in the Big Ten. In his first season, the Badgers went 9-4, with three of those losses coming by one score.

7. Arizona
Football:
Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller

Sean Miller’s last four NCAA Tournament appearances have resulted in either a Sweet 16 or an Elite Eight. It’s only a matter of time before he gets to the Final Four or better, especially as he’s returned Arizona to national powerhouse status. Rodriguez has made the most of his second chance in a major conference since his ill-fated tenure at Michigan. The Wildcats have back-to-back eight win seasons and back-to-back bowl wins in two seasons under RichRod.

Related: Complete Pac-12 coaching tandem rankings

8. Kansas State
Football:
Bill Snyder | Basketball: Bruce Weber

Kansas State doesn’t have the advantages of other Big 12 programs in either sport, but that hasn’t stopped Snyder or Weber from contending. In 2012, Kansas State won a share of the football title (and earned the BCS bid), and in 2013, the Wildcats won a share of the basketball title. Snyder’s second act as Kansas State football coach has been just as impressive as his first, and Weber’s second chance at a big-time program is about to yield his second consecutive NCAA Tournament trip.

9. Florida State
Football:
Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Not long ago, Florida State’s basketball program arguably was more successful that its football program, especially given the expectation level for both. In four seasons, Jimbo Fisher has returned FSU football to national prominence after a 14-0 season, the national championship and a Heisman Trophy. Hamilton’s basketball program may land in the NIT for the second consecutive season, but that shouldn’t overshadow his tenure. Hamilton is the first FSU basketball coach to lead the Seminoles to four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, four consecutive 20-win seasons and an ACC Tournament title.

10. South Carolina
Football:
Steve Spurrier | Basketball: Frank Martin

If anything, Spurrier could teach Martin how to mellow out. Away from game day, Spurrier knows how to relax, especially if there’s a golf course nearby. But the football coach is just as sharp as ever, leading South Carolina, once one of the league’s underachieving programs, to three consecutive top 10 finishes. After a successful run at Kansas State, Martin still has work to do to even get to an NIT, but there have been shades of improvement in his second season with the Gamecocks. He has one of the league’s top freshmen in Sindarius Thornwell.

Related: Complete SEC coaching tandem rankings

11. Michigan
Football:
Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein

One thing we’ve learned over the years: Never count out a Beilein-coached team. A season after losing the national player of the year in Trey Burke and playing most of the season without rising star Mitch McGary, the Wolverines remain in contention for the Big Ten title. On the football side, Hoke appeared to have Michigan on the path to Rose Bowl contention, but the Wolverines’ win total has decreased in each of the last three seasons.

12. Notre Dame
Football:
Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey

Notre Dame still has work to do in order to be among the national elite. Alabama exposed as much in the BCS championship game after the 2012 season. Still, a title game appearance is more than Kelly’s predecessors in South Bend. Dealt a curve ball with Everett Golson’s academic issues, Notre Dame still went 9-4 in 2013, Kelly’s eighth consecutive season with eight or more wins. Brey hasn’t been as fortunate this season with a key player, Jerian Grant, lost due to academics. Brey’s streak of seven consecutive 20-win seasons and four NCAA Tournament bids likely ends this season, but the track record suggests Brey’s program won’t be down for long.

13. North Carolina
Football:
Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

The coaches have more in common than a Chapel Hill zip code. Both would like their teams to operate at a fast pace, and neither has ever had a losing season as a head coach. Of course, Williams track record is more impressive with two national titles at North Carolina and a basketball Hall of Fame induction. Fedora’s 8-4 season in 2012 despite a bowl ban was impressive, but last season’s 7-6 performance, the third of Fedora’s career, was a let down.

14. Baylor
Football:
Art Briles | Basketball: Scott Drew

In 2006, Baylor football went 4-8 and a sanctioned-limited basketball went 4-13. Less than a decade later, Baylor is competitive on both fronts. In the last three seasons, Baylor football has won its first Heisman and its first Big 12 title. Basketball has been inconsistent under Drew, but the Bears still have two Elite Eight appearances under his watch, which is two more than any other Baylor coach since 1950.

15. UCLA
Football:
Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Steve Alford

With 19 wins in two seasons, UCLA football is a factor again in the Pac-12 even if the Bruins haven’t broken through for a conference title. Alford’s hire was greeted with skepticism, but the Bruins are in NCAA Tournament contention in his first season in Westwood. Expectations soon will be higher.

16. LSU
Football:
Les Miles | Basketball: Johnny Jones

Miles’ credentials are pretty clear: The 2007 national title and appearance in the 2011 title game and four consecutive 10-win seasons. Jones is in his second season at his alma mater after leading one of the most consistent Sun Belt programs at North Texas. Both coaches are standout recruiters in a region flush with prospects.

17. Georgia
Football:
Mark Richt | Basketball: Mark Fox

Richt has to wonder what might have been if his team had stayed healthy for all of 2013. Otherwise, Georgia has been the SEC’s most stable program since his tenure began in 2001. The Bulldogs haven’t reached a title game, but they’re consistently in the mix for the East title. Fox has had his own dose of bad luck with players like Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie leaving for the NBA Draft. The overall record isn’t pretty, but Georgia has been competitive in SEC play, including an 8-4 mark this season.

18. Alabama
Football:
Nick Saban | Basketball: Anthony Grant

Saban has few peers in football coaching with three national titles in the last five seasons. Another national No. 1 recruiting class ensures the Crimson Tide are still the team to beat in the SEC despite Auburn’s league title in December. Grant has recruited at a high level, though some of his top prospects have been washouts. This season has been the worst of his five-year tenure, which has included two NITs and one NCAA Tournament.

19. Florida
Football:
Will Muschamp | Basketball: Billy Donovan

Normally, a coaching tandem with basketball national titles and a Sugar Bowl would be enough to be at or near the top. Indeed, if Florida overcame injuries last season to get to a second-tier bowl game, maybe the Gators would be No. 1. Alas, Muschamp will be under pressure in his fourth season after presiding over a loss to Georgia Southern and the program’s first losing season since 1979.

20. Kentucky
Football:
Mark Stoops | Basketball: John Calipari

Again, the top two basketball coaches in the SEC are paired with football coaches we’re not quite sure about yet. The last two seasons probably haven’t gone the way most Big Blue Nation envisioned, but Calipari and Kentucky are a perfect match. If Kentucky football can get to regular bowl contention, then this might be the best tandem in the league. Stoops brought in a top 25 signing class in 2014, so it may happen in the near future.

21. Cincinnati
Football:
Tommy Tuberville | Basketball: Mick Cronin

Cronin took over a Cincinnati program in shambles just as the Bearcats moved into the Big East. Now, it’s one of the most consistent programs in the country thanks to a commitment to a gritty defensive style of play. Cincinnati has reached three consecutive NCAA Tournaments, including a Sweet 16 appearance two years ago. The Texas Tech job wasn’t a great fit for the well-traveled Tuberville, but Cincinnati welcomed him with open arms. With Louisville gone, he should have the top program in the AAC.

22. San Diego State
Football:
Rocky Long | Basketball: Steve Fisher

The former Michigan coach Fisher has had one of the most impressive second acts of anyone. Fisher took over a moribund San Diego State program in 1999 and molded it into the most consistent winner in the Mountain West. This season, the Aztecs are can win their third league title in the last four seasons. Long has also enjoyed his second head coaching stop, continuing the success from the Brady Hoke era. With three bowl games, Long is the only San Diego State coach to reach multiple postseason games.

23. Stanford
Football:
David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Shaw has established himself as the top football coach in the Pac-12, leading the Cardinal to back-to-back conference titles. Stanford is 34-7 with three BCS bids under Shaw with plenty of potential to continue given his recruiting success. Dawkins hasn’t matched the success of his predecessors Mike Montgomery or Trent Johnson, but Stanford basketball is finally back in NCAA Tournament contention after a six-year absence.

24. Iowa
Football:
Kirk Ferentz | Basketball: Fran McCaffery

Ferentz has had only one 10-win season and top-10 finish since the Hawkeyes did so three seasons in a row from 2002-04. Still, Iowa enjoyed rebound season in 2013, finishing with its first winning record in the Big Ten since 2009. In four seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt an Iowa program that hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament since 2006 and hasn’t won a Tournament game since 2001.

25. Oklahoma State
Football:
Mike Gundy | Basketball: Travis Ford

In the last decade, Oklahoma State has risen from an also-ran in football to a program alongside Oklahoma and Texas. The investment from T. Boone Pickens has helped, but Gundy has capitalized with three 10-win seasons in the last four years. After a disappointing season, Ford may be in some trouble if the Cowboys can’t scrap together what they can when Marcus Smart returns from suspension. Still, Oklahoma State has three Tournament appearances in five seasons under Ford.

26. Iowa State
Football:
Paul Rhoads | Basketball: Fred Hoiberg

The job in Ames is one of the tougher jobs in either sport, but Rhoads and Hoiberg have been able to keep the Cyclones in postseason contention. More than that, both coaches have a knack the big win — football defeating Oklahoma State in 2011 and basketball defeating No. 7 seed Notre Dame in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.

27. Indiana
Football:
Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean

If Wilson can find a defense to match the offense in Bloomington, this tandem will rise near the top. The Hoosiers have improved from 0-8 to 2-6 to 3-5 in the Big Ten in his three seasons. Though Indiana’s disappointing 2013-14 season began with a Sweet 16 exit from the NCAA Tournament last year, Indiana emerged from NCAA sanctions to spend much of last season ranked No. 1.

28. Minnesota
Football:
Jerry Kill | Basketball: Richard Pitino

Kill’s program has enjoyed incremental improvement in each of his three seasons, remarkable given that Minnesota finished 8-5 overall and 4-4 in the Big Ten even as Kill was limited for seven games while he dealt with epilepsy. Pitino, the youngest basketball coach in the Big Ten, has the Gophers in contention for an NCAA Tournament berth in his first season.

29. Nebraska
Football:
Bo Pelini | Basketball: Tim Miles

Pelini will need to use the Gator Bowl victory over Georgia to turn the momentum for his program. Nebraska is consistent, but a little too consistent for fans’ tastes. The Huskers have lost four games each season under Pelini, including a few head-scratchers. The charismatic Miles has Nebraska in postseason contention in 2013-14 after going 5-13 in his first season.

30. Texas
Football:
Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Barnes

Texas has gone from having one of the best tandems in the country when Mack Brown and Rick Barnes on the top of their game, and then one of the most disappointing when Brown missed a bowl game and Barnes missed the NCAA Tournament in a three-year span. Now, we don't know what to expect. With Texas enjoying a bounce-back season on the court, Barnes is coach of the year material. Strong is new to the Big 12 and all the pressures of the Texas job, but his track record at Louisville included 23 wins in his last two years.

32. Syracuse
Football:
Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim

Few coaching tandems are more lopsided than the one that shares the Carrier Dome. After last season’s trip to the Final Four, Boeheim joked his program was due for one trip to the national semifinals each decade (he wasn’t wrong), but the Hall of Famer has a team capable of doing it again. In his first season in the ACC, Boeheim is building upon his win total with 25 consecutive wins to start 2013-14. The football coach, however, is why Syracuse’s tandem is ranked this low in the ACC. Shafer proved himself a perfectly capable coach in his first season, going 7-6 with a Texas Bowl victory.

33. Miami
Football:
Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

With the NCAA investigation related to the Nevin Shapiro scandal finished an another Penn State coaching search completed, Miami will look to continue its progress under Golden. The Hurricanes have increased their win total every season under Golden, but they remain a middling ACC program (10-6 the last two seasons).

34. BYU
Football:
Bronco Mendenhall | Basketball: Dave Rose

The win totals have dropped from the days when BYU won at least 10 games every year from 2006-09, but Mendenhall has never missed a bowl game as a head coach even as the Cougars opted for independence over Mountain West affiliation. Rose’s program on the basketball side is also one of the most consistent in the country. A Tournament bid this season would be the seventh in the last eight seasons.

35. Missouri
Football:
Gary Pinkel | Basketball: Frank Haith

The question if Missouri could stay afloat in the SEC has been answered with a resounding yes as the Tigers reached the SEC title game and had a shot at the national championship game. Missouri likely will make the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season under Haith, but some of the results — two early NCAA exits and a 17-13 record in lackluster league — make it tough to rank this tandem any higher.

36. Clemson
Football:
Dabo Swinney | Basketball: Brad Brownell

Swinney’s homespun rah-rah personality and his offensive coordinator seem to have made the Clemson football coach underrated — as if motivation and assistant hires aren’t part of the job. Clemson under Swinney is one of eight programs to win 10 games in each of the last three seasons. Meanwhile, he’s led the Tigers to their first top-10 finish since 1990 and first ACC title since 1991. After two lackluster seasons, Brownell has Clemson basketball in contention for its second NCAA Tournament bid in his four-year tenure.

37. Arizona State
Football:
Todd Graham | Basketball: Herb Sendek

Graham’s reputation as a job jumper will follow him around, but he can coach. The Sun Devils improved from 6-7 the year before he arrived to 8-5 his first season to 10-4 in his second. Sendek is a veteran coach who is probably earning himself more time after entering the season with his future in question. Arizona State is poised for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009.

38. Pittsburgh
Football:
Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon
Dixon’s consistency — in results and his approach — remain impressive. He’s never won fewer than 22 games and has missed the NCAA Tournament only once in 11 seasons, all without a ton of McDonald’s All-Americans. After two bowl games and a 13-13 record in two seasons, Chryst’s greatest contribution to Pitt has been putting program on stable footing after a revolving door of three head coaches in two seasons.

39. Oregon
Football:
Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman

Helfrich went 11-2 overall and 7-2 in the Pac-12 in his first season as a head coach. The next question is if he can sustain Oregon as a national power. Altman wasn’t the first choice for the basketball program, but he’s led the Ducks to a Sweet 16 berth in his third season. Sustainability will be worth watching for Altman as well. His program has been a haven for high-profile transfers, for better or worse.

40. Colorado State
Football:
Jim McElwain | Basketball: Larry Eustachy

Eustachy took over an experienced Colorado State team in 2012-13 to go 26-9. The veteran coach has plenty of experience building programs, leading Utah State, Iowa State and Southern Miss to the NCAA Tournament. With an 8-6 season and a New Mexico Bowl victory, McElwain, a former Nick Saban assistant, is a rising star in the coaching ranks.
 

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