The Big Ten isn’t hurting for talent in its coaching ranks. The duo of Tom Izzo and Mark Dantonio ranks as the best in the conference, but Ohio State (Urban Meyer and Thad Matta) and Michigan (Jim Harbaugh and John Beilein) round out a strong top three. And the conference also features some up-and-coming duos, including Minnesota, Northwestern and Penn State.
Each year, Athlon Sports ranks the coaching tandems from each Power 5 league. A variety of factors are considered for this exercise. 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.
Ranking the Big Ten's Football-Basketball Coaching Duos for 2017
1. Michigan State
Football: Mark Dantonio
Basketball: Tom Izzo
The 2016-17 academic year hasn’t been great for either of the bosses at Michigan State, but Dantonio (who won a total of 65 games from 2010-15) and Izzo (who has been to seven Final Fours) are among the best in the business in their respective sports.
2. Ohio State
Football: Urban Meyer
Basketball: Thad Matta
Meyer, with national championships at two schools (Florida and Ohio State) and an undefeated season at a third (Utah), is an all-time great. Matta’s program has slipped a bit in the past two seasons, but he has won at a very high level in stops at Butler (one year), Xavier (three years) and Ohio State (13 years).
Football: Jim Harbaugh
Basketball: John Beilein
The 2016 season ended on a disappointing note, but Harbaugh has had an enormous impact in a short time at Michigan. Beilein had a great run at Michigan from 2011-14 (four NCAA Tournaments, two Elite Eights, one national runner-up finish) but has leveled off in recent seasons. He still is regarded as one of the game’s top coaches.
Football: Pat Fitzgerald
Basketball: Chris Collins
Fitzgerald has turned Northwestern into a consistent winner, guiding his alma mater to a bowl game in seven of the last nine seasons. The Wildcats are 11–6 in the Big Ten in the last two seasons. Collins has the basketball team on the verge of its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Football: Paul Chryst
Basketball: Greg Gard
Chryst wasn’t the most exciting hire, but he has a combined 21–6 record in two seasons, including a 13–4 mark in league play. That’s pretty strong. Gard has done a great job in a tough spot — replacing the legendary Bo Ryan. The Badgers are as good as ever.
Related: Early Big Ten Predictions for 2017
Football: Kirk Ferentz
Basketball: Fran McCaffrey
Ferentz takes a lot of heat for his bloated contract, but he has done a solid job in his 18 years at Iowa. He has an 83–64 record in the Big Ten, highlighted by two 8–0 seasons and one 7–1 season. McCaffrey is known for his frequent outbursts on the bench, but he, too, has done a really nice job in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes made the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons (2014-16) but appear to be a longshot to make it this year.
Football: Jeff Brohm
Basketball: Matt Painter
Painter has recovered from a rough patch (13–23 Big Ten record in ’12-13 and ’13-14) and has the Boilermakers back among the league’s elite. Brohm was a great hire by Purdue. The Bobby Petrino disciple went 30–10 in three seasons at Western Kentucky and did so while running one of the nation’s top offenses.
8. Penn State
Football: James Franklin
Basketball: Pat Chambers
Franklin guided the Nittany Lions to an unlikely Big Ten title in his third season Happy Valley. His most impressive accomplishment, however, is winning a combined 18 games in his final two seasons at Vanderbilt. Chambers is having a tough time turning things around at Penn State (no NCAA Tournaments in five full seasons), but recruiting has been on an uptick and his current team has a talented young core.
Football: D.J. Durkin
Basketball: Mark Turgeon
After reaching the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons at Texas A&M, Turgeon had some unexpected struggles in his first three years at Maryland. Since the move to the Big Ten, however, Maryland has returned to national relevance. Durkin is off to a strong start with the Terps’ football program, both on the field and on the recruiting trail.
Football: P.J. Fleck
Basketball: Richard Pitino
Fleck is unproven at the Power 5 level but is fresh off a great run at Western Michigan. He will bring a ton of energy to a program that has been good — but hardly great — in recent seasons. Pitino, now in his fourth season, is still looking for his first trip to the NCAA Tournament. This should be the year.
Football: Tom Allen
Basketball: Tom Crean
Crean has seemingly never been embraced by the IU faithful, but he has won two outright Big Ten titles in the last four seasons and has made three trips to the Sweet 16 in the past five years. Allen, a widely respected defensive coordinator, is untested as a head coach.
Football: Mike Riley
Basketball: Tim Miles
Riley rebounded from a 6–7 record in Year 1 to win nine games and finish in a tie for second place in the Big Ten West. Still, many wonder if he can win big at a school that still expects to compete for championships. Miles has made the NCAA Tournament one time in four full seasons and finished 10th or worse in the other three.
Football: Chris Ash
Basketball: Steve Pikiell
Pikiell will try to do what so many before him could not — make Rutgers basketball relevant. He’s done a nice job in Year 1, but this program still has a long way to go before it can be consistently competitive in the Big Ten. Ash’s first season as the football coach did not go well. The Scarlet Knights did not win a Big Ten game and scored seven points or fewer seven times vs. league opponents.
Football: Lovie Smith
Basketball: John Groce
Groce, who made the NCAA Tournament in his first season (2012-13), has yet to have a winning record in the Big Ten. Injuries have played a key role in the recent struggles, but playing in the NIT simply isn’t the goal at Illinois. Smith, in his first season back in the collegiate ranks since he was an assistant at Ohio State in 1995, went 3–9 overall and 2–7 in the Big Ten.