Duke's Krzyzewski and Cutcliffe lead the way
Few would argue that Duke is college basketball royalty. Even fewer would argue that one coach is the primary reason Duke is among the bluest of the blue bloods.
At the same time, few would argue that Duke is one of the toughest jobs in college football. The program’s overall record attests to that.
And yet although Mike Krzyzewski and David Cutcliffe have drastically different sets of expectations, they make up the top coaching tandem in the ACC. Coach K expects to compete for championships every season, winning his most recent in 2015.
Meanwhile, Cutcliffe has elevated Duke football into a consistent bowl contender, something that hasn’t been done since the '50s and '60s.
As we start our college football-college basketball tandem rankings, it’s important to note that we are attempting to value balance — i.e., which schools have an above-average coach at both position? That’s why some programs with an elite football coach and a new (or struggling) basketball coach will be ranked lower than one might expect.
Football: David Cutcliffe
Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski
Hard to believe, but Krzyzewski’s stature has only grown since this time last season. Coach K won his fifth career national championship in 2015 and did it in a new way using one-and-done talent. This season has been bumpy, with the Blue Devils going unranked for the first time since 2006-07. David Cutcliffe has done the unthinkable with Duke football, producing three consecutive winning seasons for the first time and the program’s first bowl win since the early ‘60s.
Football: Bobby Petrino
Basketball: Rick Pitino
The off-field/off-court exploits — failed professional careers, extramarital affairs gone public and the most recent basketball postseason ban stemming from allegations a staffer used prostitutes to lure recruits — are troubling. Their coaching ability, though, is unquestioned. Pitino averaged 30.8 wins from 2011-15, including a national championship and a Final Four. In his third year on his second tour of duty, Petrino should have the Cardinals ready to take the next step after going 10-6 in the ACC in the first two seasons.
3. Notre Dame
Football: Brian Kelly
Basketball: Mike Brey
Brian Kelly has brought Notre Dame back to national prominence with at trip to the national championship game in 2012. The Irish have spent time in the top five in each of the last two seasons despite playing two years snakebit by injuries. Mike Brey is on the short list of most underrated coaches. In the last two years, Brey has defeated Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Rick Pitino with regularity.
4. North Carolina
Football: Larry Fedora
Basketball: Roy Williams
Williams has his best North Carolina team in at least five years, the last time the Tar Heels won the ACC. Williams is looking to reach his eighth Final Four and first since 2009, an eternity for the Hall of Fame coach. It probably took Fedora longer to turn the corner with the football program than UNC fans would have hoped, but the Heels are coming off their best season since 1997.
Football: Mark Richt
Basketball: Jim Larranaga
If Richt does for Miami what he did for Georgia — averaging 9.6 wins per year and fielding regular top-10 teams — he’ll be in the College Football Hall of Fame. Larranaga already has an ACC title and Sweet 16 at Miami and a Final Four at George Mason on his résumé, and he has a top-15 team again in Coral Gables. Fun fact: Larranaga has more career wins than Michigan State’s Tom Izzo.
6. Florida State
Football: Jimbo Fisher
Basketball: Leonard Hamilton
Florida State football is an all-around powerhouse — in recruiting, on the field and on draft day — again with Fisher in charge. His 68-14 record through six years gives him one of the hottest starts in college football history. Hamilton breathed life into the Florida State program with four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 from 2009-12. Since then, the Seminoles topped 20 wins just once.
Football: Dino Babers
Basketball: Jim Boeheim
Syracuse’s NCAA issues — the postseason ban in 2015, scholarship limits and Boeheim’s suspension earlier this year — cast a shadow on the latter years of his tenure. Syracuse might not get to the Final Four or win 30 games again before he retires in 2018. Babers, an Art Briles protégé, who has two conference championships in four seasons at Bowling Green and Eastern Illinois under his belt, could be a transformative hire for Syracuse football.
Football: Bronco Mendenhall
Basketball: Tony Bennett
Bennett has remade Virginia basketball with his pack-line defense. Of the Cavaliers’ three 30-win seasons in school history, two are under his watch in the last two seasons, and the Cavs could make it three 30-win seasons in a row this year. They’ve won back-to-back ACC regular-season titles and an ACC tournament for Virginia’s best run since Ralph Sampson played in Charlottesville. Mendenhall was an outside-of-the-box hire for a moribund football program. He has plenty of questions about recruiting in the East, but he averaged nine wins per season at BYU.
9. Virginia Tech
Football: Justin Fuente
Basketball: Buzz Williams
There’s a ton to love about the combo of Fuente and Williams. The reason they’re ranked lower than one might expect is because both have done their best work at other places. Obviously, Fuente hasn’t even coached spring practice in Blacksburg, but he’s making all the right moves (i.e., retaining Bud Foster). He was a miracle worker at Memphis. Williams has already topped his first-year win total with the basketball program, and a trip to the NIT would be a major step forward. Still, he’s a long way from turning Virginia Tech into the consistent overachiever Marquette was.
Football: Dabo Swinney
Basketball: Brad Brownell
Wait, how can Dabo Swinney — a coach who led Clemson to the national title game and 56 wins in five years — be ranked this low? Swinney would be near the top of football coach rankings, but this is a tandem. The basketball program is never going to get the same love as the football program, but aside from a couple of nice weeks and upsets here and there, Brownell’s program hasn’t done much to draw attention. The Tigers have reached the NCAA Tournament just once in his six-year tenure – as a No. 12 seed in Dayton in his first year.
Football: Pat Narduzzi
Basketball: Jamie Dixon
This tandem for Pittsburgh just seems so … right. Narduzzi and Dixon are two defensive-minded coaches whose teams tend to grind their way through a season. Narduzzi led Pitt to eight wins for the first time since 2010, and he should have enough returning to make a run at the ACC Coastal. After Pitt basketball was the most overachieving team in the Big East (nine NCAA appearances in 10 years), Dixon’s program is hovering around .500 in ACC play the last three years. That’s a bit of concern.
12. NC State
Football: Dave Doeren
Basketball: Mark Gottfried
Of Doeren’s six ACC wins in three years, four are over Wake Forest and Syracuse. Gottfried has led NC State to a pair of Sweet 16 appearances in five seasons. Although this will be the first year under Gottfried NC State failed to make the NCAA Tournament, his career ACC record will likely dip under .500 after a disastrous 2015-16 season.
13. Georgia Tech
Football: Paul Johnson
Basketball: Brian Gregory
Johnson never got a chance to celebrate his second 11-win season and first top-10 in eight seasons. His team bottomed out at 3–9, the worst season for the Yellow Jackets since 1994. According to KenPom.com, this is Georgia Tech’s best team since 2009-10, but the Yellow Jackets have never finished better than 6-12 in the ACC under Gregory. Time is running out.
14. Wake Forest
Football: Dave Clawson
Basketball: Danny Manning
Things looked promising for Wake Forest basketball when the Deacons started 10–5. They’ve since lost 11 in a row and will finish close to the 13–19 mark in Manning’s first year. He’s still a bright young coach with a major rebuild. The story is the same on the football side where Clawson has gone 3-9 overall and 1-7 in the ACC in each of his first two seasons.
15. Boston College
Football: Steve Addazio
Basketball: Jim Christian
After back-to-back 7–6 seasons, BC football dropped to 3–9 due to an inept offense, which is supposed to be Addazio’s side of the ball. Boston College could hold the distinction of going winless in conference play in both football and basketball.