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Ranking the Best Coaching Tandems in the Big 12

Bob Stoops

Bob Stoops

The Big 12 has not been short on surprises in the last year.

On the football side, a league that appeared to have few top 10-caliber programs in the preseason produced one that spent much of the season there (Baylor) and another that finished there by defeating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl (Oklahoma).

In basketball, Kansas, as usual, is atop the standings, but the league has shown impressive depth with teams like Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas State and Iowa State all surprising through the course of the year.

Still, our selection for the top coaching tandem in the league — the one that best meets our criteria of keeping fans happy from the start of football to the end of basketball season — are among the most predictable.

Bob Stoops is good for 10 wins and Big 12 title contention nearly every season. And Lon Kruger, no matter where he’s the coach, is will almost always put an NCAA Tournament team on the court.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. Kansas
Football: Charlie Weis | Basketball: Bill Self
Kansas has one of the most lopsided coaching tandems in a major conference in terms of results. No doubt, Self is one of the top 10 basketball coaches in the country. No matter the personnel changes, Kansas has won the Big 12 in nine consecutive seasons, a run that includes the 2008 national title and the 2012 Final Four. Meanwhile, Weis is just looking to win consecutive games.

8. West Virginia
Football: Dana Holgorsen | Basketball: Bob Huggins
Like Kansas, West Virginia is saddled with a prolific basketball coach and a spotty football coach. In 2012-13, Huggins endured his worst season since his first at Akron in 1984-85. The Mountaineers have rebounded nicely this season, contending for an NCAA Tournament spot. Holgorsen’s tenure started at 10-3, but West Virginia is 6-14 since.

9. Texas Tech
Football: Kliff Kingsbury | Basketball: Tubby Smith
Before Kingsbury took a snap as Texas Tech’s quarterback, Smith had already won the national championship at Kentucky. Certainly, this is one of the most unique coaching tandems in the country, but both are having success in their first seasons. Kingsbury started his tenure 7-0 and capped the season with a bowl win over Arizona State. Smith has been handed one of the toughest jobs in the Big 12, but the Red Raiders have defeated Baylor, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in his first season.

10. TCU
Football: Gary Patterson | Basketball: Trent Johnson
It’s almost not fair to rank TCU last in the Big 12. Patterson’s program had been near-automatic in the Mountain West, but a run of player departures and injuries have contributed to a 6-12 Big 12 record. TCU may be a more competitive Big 12 program, but Patterson needs time and consistency on his roster. Johnson had a good track record at Nevada and Stanford, but the Horned Frogs were out of place in the Mountain West basketball lineup. The move to the Big 12 hasn’t helped.

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