Ranking the Nation's Top Football-Basketball Coaching Tandems

The duo in Columbus is the No. 1 pairing for 2015

Building a consistent winner in one college sport is tough enough. Building two in the most high-profile sports? That’s something special.

 

Only so many programs can contend for both college football and college basketball championships in the same calendar year. Only a handful can keep their fans cheering in bowl games and the NCAA Tournament every year.

 

This list celebrates the rare schools that have found the coaching pairs who can deliver such feats.

 

The goal of our coach tandem rankings is to look at each football and basketball duo as a pair. In general, we’re looking at the duos most likely to keep each school’s fans happy and entertained from the start of football season through the end of basketball season.

 

 

1. Ohio State

Football: Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta

Meyer and Alabama’s Nick Saban are the Nos. 1A and 1B of college football coaching with good reason. After Ohio State’s improbable run to the 2014 national championship, Meyer and Saban are the only coaches to win national titles at two different schools. Meyer is 38-3 with the Buckeyes and has six AP top five finishes at Utah, Florida and Ohio State. Matta has one of the most underrated careers in college basketball, partly because he’s never won a national title and partly because of his low-key personality. Remember, when Matta took over at Ohio State, the Buckeyes were emerging from NCAA sanctions. Since then, Ohio State has won 30 games three times and reached the Final Four twice. In 15 seasons as a head coach, he’s won at least a share of eight regular season conference titles.

 

2. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe | Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

Krzyzewski’s resume is self-explanatory: More than 1,000 career wins, 11 Final Fours and four national titles. Early NCAA Tournament exits (Mercer in 2014, Lehigh in '12) have vexed the Blue Devils, but that appears to be unlikely with the group Coach K has assembled this season. Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with the football program by turning the perennial ACC bottom-feeder into a factor in the league race. Duke has won 19 games the last two seasons, reached three consecutive bowl games and won the ACC Coastal Division in 2013.

 

3. Arizona

Football: Rich Rodriguez | Basketball: Sean Miller

Less than a decade ago, Arizona’s basketball and football programs were searching for an identity. The end of the Lute Olson era was a protracted experience with two interim coaches, and football found only limited success with Mike Stoops. Miller and Rodriguez have transformed all that. Miller has led Arizona to two Elite Eights and two regular season conference titles. The football program isn’t going to be USC, but Rodriguez is the right fit for an underdog program. His 10 wins last season was the most for Arizona since the Desert Swarm days, and 26 wins in three seasons in the most for the Wildcats in a three-year period since the 1970s.

 

4. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn | Basketball: Bruce Pearl

During the course of two seasons, Auburn made two hires that changed the trajectory of its football and basketball program. Football had been relatively consistent back to the Pat Dye era, but it was clear Malzahn and his up-tempo, run-oriented offense brought something special to the Tigers. He was the offensive coordinator of the 2010 championship team and took Auburn back to the title game in the first season after his return in 2013. The ascent won’t be as rapid for the basketball program under Pearl, who has reached the Sweet 16 or better in four of his last seven seasons as head coach. Still, he’s brought in elite recruits and already has Auburn basketball fans following his cult of personality.

 

5. Michigan State

Football: Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo

This duo rarely makes a big splash with major recruits, but Dantonio and Izzo both excel at developing upperclassmen capable of winning in the Big Ten and the postseason. Dantonio has elevated Michigan State football to one of the powers in the Big Ten. He’s led Michigan State to four seasons of 11 wins or more in the last five and back-to-back top-five finishes, something that hasn’t happened in East Lansing since 1965-66. Izzo is in interesting territory. He is enduring his longest Final Four drought (five seasons, boo hoo) and his team is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1997. The track record, though, is elite: Izzo has six career Final Fours and a national title.

 

6. Michigan

Football: Jim Harbaugh | Basketball: John Beilein

Give credit to both of these coaches for not taking the easy route: Harbaugh’s first head coaching job was at San Diego of the non-scholarship Pioneer League; Beilein’s was at Erie Community College. All Michigan is asking of its new hire Harbaugh is to do what Beilein has done — return a program to national contention. In basketball, the Wolverines reached the Final Four in 2013 and the Elite Eight in 2014. Harbaugh would seem to be up to the task at his alma mater. He built Stanford into a Pac-12 contender and took the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.

 

7. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino | Basketball: Rick Pitino

The Petrino/Pitino duo is back at Louisville for the first time since 2006. Having both coaches is still a boon for the Cardinals. Petrino went 9-4 and finished in the top 25 in his first season back with the Cardinals, a notable feat considering the revolving door at quarterback and that it was the football program’s indoctrination into the ACC. Petrino has finished in the top 25 in six of 10 seasons as a head coach, including four times in five total seasons at Louisville. Pitino has seven Final Fours and two national championships, including the 2013 title. 

 

8. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops | Basketball: Lon Kruger

Even though Stoops is coming off an 8-5 campaign, the most disappointing since he’s been a head coach, Oklahoma has the most solid coaching duo in the league. Stoops has won at least 10 games in four of the last five seasons and made more BCS games than any other coach under the old system. Kruger, whose forte is rebuilding programs, has completed his reclamation of OU basketball with his best team this season. No program is more likely to be in a major bowl game and the NCAA Tournament in the same season as Oklahoma.

 

9. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly | Basketball: Mike Brey

Is Notre Dame a year-in and year-out powerhouse in either sport? Not yet. Still, both coaches deserve credit for putting the Irish back into the mix. The Irish are two years removed from an undefeated regular season in football, and Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to post five consecutive winning seasons since Lou Holtz. Mike Brey’s consistency — six NCAA appearances in eight years — gets overlooked because his team hasn’t made it to the Sweet 16 since 2003. Now if only both of them could go a season without losing a player to an academic-related suspension...

 

10. Baylor

Football: Art Briles | Basketball: Scott Drew

The year before Briles was hired, Baylor football was riding 12 consecutive losing seasons. When Drew was hired, Baylor was emerging from one of the biggest scandals in college basketball history. It’s tough to find a duo who improved their school’s situation more from the day they were hired until 2015. Briles had Baylor on the verge of the College Football Playoff and won the last two Big 12 titles. And Drew has twice taken Baylor basketball to the Elite Eight and once to the Sweet 16.

 

11. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher | Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

Florida State’s football program is the healthiest it has been since Bobby Bowden was in his prime. In the last three seasons, Fisher has led the Seminoles to a national title, 29 consecutive wins, a College Football Playoff appearance and three ACC titles. The basketball program was on a nice hot streak from 2009-12 under Hamilton with four consecutive NCAA appearances, an ACC tournament title and a trip to the Sweet 16. In three seasons since, FSU has yet to post a winning ACC record.

 

12. Oregon State

Football: Gary Andersen | Basketball: Wayne Tinkle

Oregon State pulled off one of the biggest coups of the college football coaching carousel this season when it pulled Andersen from Wisconsin. The former Badgers coach was 19-7 overall and 13-3 in the Big Ten after winning 11 games and a WAC title at Utah State. Just as important, though, was the arrival of Tinkle with the basketball program. He took Montana to the NCAA Tournament and won two Big Sky regular season titles in his final three seasons. His first team at Oregon State is already competitive in the Pac-12. Both of the Oregon State coaching jobs are among the toughest in the Pac-12, but both coaches can win here. 

 

13. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora | Basketball: Roy Williams

North Carolina fans don’t like to hear this, but both coaches leave us wanting more these days. Williams is a Hall of Fame coach with seven career Final Fours and two national championships. Yet his team will have five or more ACC losses for the third consecutive season. If Carolina doesn’t reach the Sweet 16 this season, Williams will face his longest Sweet 16 drought since 1998-2000 at Kansas. Fedora’s win total has decreased every season at Carolina, and he’s never finished better than 5-3 in the league.

 

14. Virginia Tech

Football: Frank Beamer | Basketball: Buzz Williams

On career achievements, this duo should rank higher. Virginia Tech is a factor in football because of Beamer, who has been the coach since 1987. And despite 22 consecutive winning seasons, the Hokies are having a bit of identity crisis. The 10- and 11-win seasons have become seven- and eight-win seasons during the last three years. Williams’ credentials at Marquette were impeccable — two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and five consecutive NCAAs through 2013 — but he’s working through a major rebuilding project in his first season in Blacksburg.

 

15. Stanford

Football: David Shaw | Basketball: Johnny Dawkins

Stanford has a pair of coaches that — at least for now — appear to be trending in opposite directions. Shaw picked up where Jim Harbaugh left off and led Stanford to 34 wins, three major bowl games and two Pac-12 titles in his first three seasons. The 2014 season, though, ended with five losses and a trip to the Foster Farms Bowl. Dawkins seemed to be in trouble entering last season before taking Stanford to the Sweet 16. The Cardinal should head to a second consecutive NCAA Tournament this season.

 

16. Utah

Football: Kyle Whittingham | Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

Times were better for Whittingham and Utah football in the Mountain West, when the Utes went 33-6, including an undefeated season in 2008, in their last three seasons in the league. Wittingham delivered Utah’s best season in the Pac-12 last year — 9-4 overall and 5-4 in the league — but coaching staff tumult has put the future in question. Basketball, on the other hand, is surging forward. Krystkowiak went 6-25 with a broken program in his first year, reached 21 wins in his third and has a top-10 team in his fourth. The Utes have arguably their best team since Rick Majerus was the coach.

 

17. Oregon

Football: Mark Helfrich | Basketball: Dana Altman

Helfrich picked up where Chip Kelly left off, reaching the national title game in his second season as head coach and winning 11 games and finishing in the top 10 in his first season. He’s laid-back demeanor is a change for the program, but the most pressing issue is winning without Marcus Mariota. Altman has survived an offseason of controversy to have Oregon in contention for its third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. In his last 17 seasons at Creighton and Oregon, Altman has 16 20-win seasons.

 

18. UCLA

Football: Jim L. Mora | Basketball: Steve Alford

Mora has pulled UCLA out of its funk, leading the Bruins to back-to-back 10 win seasons and top-25 finishes for the first time since 1997-98. With the way he has recruited, more should be on the way. Alford got over his NCAA Tournament bugaboo by reaching the Sweet 16 in his first season at UCLA. If the Bruins even get into the field this season, it will be something of a victory. Alford has been around longer than you might think — he’s taken four teams to the Tournament and should get to 450 career wins next season. 

 

19. Wisconsin

Football: Paul Chryst | Basketball: Bo Ryan

Ryan was already one of the best coaches in the country when he led Wisconsin to top-four finishes in the Big Ten every year since 2002. Now, he’s looking to take the Badgers to back-to-back Final Fours. And he’s done all of that without a ton of major recruits on his roster. Wisconsin football has had an unbroken record of success under Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema and Gary Andersen. Chryst, a former Badgers player and offensive coordinator, knows the territory. His record at Pittsburgh — 19-19 overall, 10-13 in the ACC — was nothing special, but he took over program with a tumultuous coaching situation.

 

20. Cincinnati

Football: Tommy Tuberville | Basketball: Mick Cronin

The well-traveled Tuberville has kept the momentum going at Cincinnati, going 9-4 in each of his first two seasons and winning a share of the American title last year. Cronin has missed most of this season while he deals with a health issue, but he’s returned the Bearcats to contender status after a difficult rebuild. Cincinnati has reached the NCAA Tournament in the last four seasons and reached the 2012 Sweet 16.

 

21. SMU

Football: Chad Morris | Basketball: Larry Brown

The Mustangs have spent recent years clawing for renewed relevance in both sports. The Hall of Famer Brown, despite NCAA troubles this season, has delivered. His team is on the way to its first NCAA bid since 1993 a year after winning 27 games and going to the NIT. Morris was one of the hottest names in the coaching carousel after taking his high-flying offense to Clemson. His Texas high school connections should serve him well as he tries to rebuild in Dallas.

 

22. Miami

Football: Al Golden | Basketball: Jim Larranaga

Golden left Temple with the reputation of a miracle worker and walked into the Nevin Shapiro mess at Miami. After a self-imposed bowl ban in his first two seasons, Miami went 9-4 in his third year before falling to 6-7 last season. With quarterback Brad Kaaya starting his second season, Golden is entering a critical fifth year. Larranaga has taken George Mason to a Final Four and won the ACC at Miami. That’s a pretty darn good career right there, never mind that he has 547 career wins otherwise.

 

23. San Diego State

Football: Rocky Long | Basketball: Steve Fisher

What Fisher has done at San Diego State was once unthinkable. A program that hadn’t won an NCAA Tournament game before Fisher arrived is a perennial postseason team. The Aztecs have twice won 30 games and twice reached the Sweet 16 during the last five years. Football isn’t the same contender as the basketball program, but the longtime underachiever has reached a bowl game all four seasons under Long.

 

24. BYU

Football: Bronco Mendenhall | Basketball: Dave Rose

Five or six years ago, the stock for the BYU duo would have been higher than it is now. Back then, Jimmer Fredette was on the court for BYU, and the Cougars had won at least 10 games in four of five seasons. BYU is still trying to find its way as an independent and West Coast Conference member, but both are still regulars in the postseason.

 

25. Kansas State

Football: Bill Snyder | Basketball: Bruce Weber

Kansas State failed to sign a top 50 recruiting class in 2015, but that doesn’t matter. We’ll end up talking about the Wildcats as a top 10 team at some point anyway. That’s the deal for Snyder, whose teams have been the biggest overachievers in college football. Weber’s team has fallen below expectations this season, but he’s still two years removed from a 27-win season and a share of the Big 12 title.

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