The Big 12 academic year has been an experiment in contrasts in recent years.
In football, new powers have taken over with Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State claiming championships since 2011.
Yet in basketball, the old guard — the only true blue blood in the league — continues to rule as Kansas appears headed to its 11th consecutive Big 12 title.
It makes sense, then, that of the top football-basketball coaching tandems on our list, one comes from a traditional power and the other comes from a new-age contender.
Oklahoma tops our list even after a lackluster football season by Bob Stoops’ standards. The Sooners, in general, are contenders in both football and men’s basketball under Stoops and Lon Kruger, respectively.
That said, Baylor is quickly gaining. Art Briles has claimed the last two Big 12 football titles, and basketball coach Scott Drew looks to have one of the better teams of his tenure, only a year after reaching the Sweet 16.
Indeed, these are strange times in the Big 12 when Baylor — a non-factor in both sports a decade ago — is pressing to have the most competitive program in an academic year.
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.
That means it may look at little strange to see a top football coach or top basketball coach near the bottom of the rankings. That’s nothing against, say, Kansas basketball coach Bill Self. Rather, the football side is the one that has to kick it up a notch to at least give Jayhawks fans something to cheer in September and October before basketball season rolls around.
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.
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.
3. 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.
Football: Gary Patterson | Basketball: Trent Johnson
In only TCU’s third season in the Big 12, the Horned Frogs won a share of the league and were in playoff contention until the final week of the season. Most of all, Patterson deserves credit for altering his offensive philosophy for a 12-1 season in 2014, not an easy ask for any coach who had already been wildly successful earlier in his career with two BCS bowls out of the Mountain West. Johnson, who took both Nevada and Stanford to the Sweet 16, has an uphill battle with TCU’s neglected basketball program, but the Frogs’ 14 wins this season is the most of his tenure.
Football: Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Barnes
Is there any reason why Texas shouldn’t have the best coaching tandem in the league? Not long ago, Texas indeed had one of the top duos. From 2003-05, the Longhorns reached a Final Four and won a football title under Mack Brown and Barnes. Now, both programs are in a state of flux. Strong is entering Year Two of his project to return the Longhorns to national contention. Barnes has reached the NCAA Tournament in 15 of 16 seasons at Texas, but this season is shaping up to be another disappointing campaign. Barnes’ preseason top 10 team is flirting with a losing record in the Big 12.
6. Oklahoma State
Football: Mike Gundy | Basketball: Travis Ford
Are either Gundy or Ford the most accomplished coaches at their individual sports in the Big 12? No. But remember, this is a ranking of tandems, and it’s tough to argue Oklahoma State keeps things interesting from the start of football season until the end of basketball season. Gundy has led Oklahoma State to four of Oklahoma State’s 10 top 20 finishes all time, including No. 3 and a Big 12 title in 2011. Ford has made up for last season’s disappointing 21-13 campaign with a surprising top-25 team this year.
Football: David Beaty | Basketball: Bill Self
Remember: This is a ranking of coaching tandems as a duo. Self is is on his way to his 11th consecutive Big 12 title, but football is on its third football coach since its last bowl game. The football side made a bold move in hiring the 44-year-old ace recruiter Beaty. The former Texas A&M position coach is an unknown commodity, but being an unknown is a step up from his predecessor, who was known to not be very good.
8. Iowa State
Football: Paul Rhoads | Basketball: Fred Hoiberg
Iowa State needs to be creative to be competitive. The Cyclones have creativity at both spots. Hoiberg as turned Iowa State into Transfer U and one of the few places that plays an up-tempo — and successful — offensive system. Rhoads has been notable for his impassioned speeches, but he has one winning season and a career 14-48 Big 12 record in six years.
9. West Virginia
Football: Dana Holgorsen | Basketball: Bob Huggins
No doubt, this is one of the more interesting college pairings in terms of personality. And as a Big East tandem, it was one of the best. Holgorsen won the Big East in his first season, but he’s 18-20 in three seasons in the Big 12. Huggins has 758 career wins and reached the Final Four with WVU in 2010, but he’s yet to reach the NCAA Tournament as a Big 12 member.
10. Texas Tech
Football: Kliff Kingsbury | Basketball: Tubby Smith
This would make an interesting buddy cop show. The two are separated in age by 28 years. Kingsbury is Coach Cool. Tubby Smith is ... not as cool. What would make both coaches more cool, though, would be more wins. Since starting his career with seven consecutive wins, Kingsbury is 5-13. Meanwhile, Smith led Kentucky to the 1998 national title but hasn’t had a winning conference record in the Big Ten or Big 12 since leaving Kentucky.