Do Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo form the top coaching tandem in the Big Ten?
The Big Ten wasn’t hurting for talent in its coaching ranks to begin with but has only added to its quality depth with some of the conference’s most recent hires. In football, the Big Ten already boasts Urban Meyer, Mark Dantonio, Jim Harbaugh and James Franklin, and added Jeff Brohm and P.J. Fleck a year ago. Now Scott Frost has returned home to Nebraska after leading UFC to an undefeated season.
On the basketball side, Tom Izzo pairs with Dantonio to form the Big Ten’s best coaching tandem, but Chris Holtman has been impressive in his first season at Ohio State after taking over for Thad Matta while Brad Underwood (Illinois) and Archie Miller (Indiana) were two other hires that received rave reviews. So with all of the changes and new faces throughout the conference, how do the Big Ten teams’ coaching duos line up behind Dantonio/Izzo?
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 2018
1. Michigan State
Football: Mark Dantonio
Basketball: Tom Izzo
It’s a tumultuous time off the fields of play at Michigan State, but there is no denying that both Dantonio and Izzo are two of the premier coaches in the nation. Dantonio bounced back from a rare down year in 2016 by winning 10 games in 2017. The men’s basketball team will enter the NCAA Tournament as a favorite to reach the Final Four.
2. Ohio State
Football: Urban Meyer
Basketball: Chris Holtman
Meyer, with national championships at two schools (Florida and Ohio State) and an undefeated season at a third (Utah), is an all-time great. Holtmann did a tremendous job in three seasons at Butler and is the running for National Coach of the Year for his work with the Buckeyes this season.
Football: Jim Harbaugh
Basketball: John Beilein
Harbaugh has yet to break through and win big at Michigan, but the Wolverines have averaged 9.3 wins in his three seasons and are 18–8 in Big Ten play. They will enter the 2018 season a contender to reach the College Football Playoff. Beilein is headed to the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in his 10 seasons at Michigan.
Football: Jeff Brohm
Basketball: Matt Painter
Brohm was a great hire by Purdue. The Bobby Petrino disciple went 30–10 in three seasons at Western Kentucky and guided Purdue to a bowl game in his first season at the school. Painter has recovered from a rough patch (13–23 Big Ten record in ’12-13 and ’13-14) and has his alma mater back among the league’s elite. And the 2017-18 Boilermakers might be his best team yet.
Football: Pat Fitzgerald
Basketball: Chris Collins
Fitzgerald has turned Northwestern into a consistent winner, guiding his alma mater to a bowl game in eight of the last 10 seasons. The Wildcats are 18–8 in the Big Ten in the last three seasons. Collins led the basketball team to its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2017. Expectations were high again this season, but the Wildcats have underachieved and will not make a return visit to the NCAAs.
Football: Scott Frost
Basketball: Tim Miles
Frost did a tremendous job in his short time at UCF and has returned to Lincoln to restore order at his alma mater. He was arguably the top hire in the offseason coaching carousel. Miles entered the 2017-18 season on the hot seat but has overachieved with a roster that should remain intact for next season.
Football: Paul Chryst
Basketball: Greg Gard
Chryst wasn’t the most exciting hire, but he has a combined 34–7 record in two seasons, including a 22–4 mark in league play. That’s pretty strong. Gard did a great job in his first two seasons, going a combined 24–12 in the Big Ten with two Sweet 16 appearances, but the Badgers are headed toward their first losing season since 1998.
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 in 2016 and followed up with another 11-win campaign last fall. He has built a national power at Penn State. Chambers is having a tough time turning things around at Penn State (no NCAA Tournaments in five full seasons), but the Nittany Lions are flirting with a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time since 2009.
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 19 years at Iowa. He has an 86–68 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 nice job in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes made the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons (2014-16) but will miss the Field of 68 for the second straight year in 2018.
Football: DJ Durkin
Basketball: Mark Turgeon
Durkin is well respected and has done a decent job recruiting, but the Terps are 11–15 overall and 5–13 in the Big Ten in his two seasons. Turgeon reached the NCAA Tournament in each of his four seasons at Texas A&M, but is just three for six (and likely seven after this season) during his tenure at Maryland.
Football: Tom Allen
Basketball: Archie Miller
Allen, a widely respected defensive coordinator, went 5–7 in his first full season as the Hoosiers’ football coach. Miller was highly successful during his time at Dayton and can be expected to build a winner at Indiana. His first, year, however, has been a challenge, and the Hoosiers will miss the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Football: P.J. Fleck
Basketball: Richard Pitino
Fleck, who rose to prominence for his work at Western Michigan, went 5–7 overall and 2–7 in the Big Ten in his first season as a Power 5 head coach. He has brought new energy to a program that has been good — but hardly great — in recent seasons. Pitino broke through last season — his fourth at Minnesota — with a trip to the NCAA Tournament after an 11–7 record in the Big Ten. The Gophers were expected to contend for the league title this season but have been a major disappointment.
Football: Lovie Smith
Basketball: Brad Underwood
Smith has struggled in his short time with the Fighting Illini; he’s 5–19 over and 2–16 in the Big Ten. There have been few signs of progress. Underwood is a proven commodity who won at Stephen F. Austin and Oklahoma State (for one year) before taking the job at Illinois. This was a great hire.
Football: Chris Ash
Basketball: Steve Pikiell
Ash’s program improved from 2–10 overall and 0–9 in the Big Ten in Year 1 to 4–8 and 3–6 in Year 2. There’s still plenty of work to be done, but winning three league games was a step in the right direction. Pikiell will try to do what so many before him could not — make Rutgers basketball relevant. He’s done some nice things, but the Scarlet Knights are still struggling to compete in the Big Ten. This rebuild will take time.