With college football’s spring practice and basketball’s postseason around the corner, Athlon Sports decided this would be a good time to evaluate each school’s coaching tandem.
In this ranking, we aimed to reward balance. In short, which school’s fanbase is most likely to be satisfied from September to March? A handful of schools may have an accomplished football coach while the basketball coach is looking to keep his job, or vice versa. We did not grade on a curve in those cases.
In evaluating coaches, we examined past performance, with more focus on current and recent results and future expectations. We also considered how good a fit a particular coach is for a particular school.
The Big Ten has perhaps the best collection of coaching duos in the country, especially at the top.
The Jim Tressel/Thad Matta tandem was one of the best in the country before scandal cost Tressel his job. The Buckeyes may have enhanced their coaching duo even more with the hire of Urban Meyer. Ohio State’s new football coach, however, is no stranger to sharing the spotlight with a top basketball coach. He and Billy Donovan won a combined four national titles at Florida from 2006-08.
But the choice for Ohio State at No. 1 wasn’t easy. Michigan has two coaches who have led the Wolverines from mediocrity to the top of the Big Ten in Brady Hoke and John Beilein. And Michigan State the basketball coach we ranked No. 1 prior to the season and a football coach one year removed from playing for the Big Ten title.
Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Pac-12 | SEC
1. Ohio State
Football: Urban Meyer | Basketball: Thad Matta
Meyer walked into Ohio State, where he was an assistant under Earle Bruce, and went 12-0 for the second time in his career. It wasn’t always pretty, but the Buckeyes never looked like a team facing a postseason ban. A two-time national champion at Florida, Meyer has also shaken up Big Ten recruiting in one season. Matta rarely is rarely noted as the top basketball coach in the Big Ten, but he’s led the Buckeyes to two Final Fours, three Big Ten tournament titles and at least a share of five regular season conference titles. Ohio State is on its way to its ninth consecutive 20-win season under Matta.
Football: Brady Hoke | Basketball: John Beilein
When Michigan raided West Virginia for its football/basketball coaching duo, Rich Rodriguez was pinpointed as the coach who would turn the Wolverines’ fortunes. Instead, Beilein turned out to be the better hire. Never shy about shooting the three-pointer under Beilein, Michigan is more balanced this season, giving the Wolverines their best team since the Fab Five era. The return of defensive line coach Hoke to Ann Arbor is bringing the Wolverines back to basics. They slipped from 11-2 to 8-5 last season, but Hoke is building the classic pro-style powerful Michigan team.
3. Michigan State
Football: Mark Dantonio | Basketball: Tom Izzo
Tom Izzo is doing it again. While everyone was talking about Indiana and Michigan in the Big Ten, the Spartans may have the league’s best team. Athlon named Izzo its No. 1 basketball coach prior to the season due to Izzo’s regular season and postseason acumen, recruiting and player development skills. All have come into play this season. In football, Dantonio’s star has fallen a bit after going 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the Big Ten last season, but he led the Spartans to 22 wins in 2010-11. Now that Michigan and Ohio State are returning to full strength, Danonio’s job is that much tougher.
Football: Gary Andersen | Basketball: Bo Ryan
Ryan has led Wisconsin to a top-four finish in the Big Ten and the NCAA Tournament every season in Madison since he arrived in 2001-02. Yet even this season, no one caught on (Athlon picked the Badgers sixth in the conference this year, and we were hardly alone in underestimating Wisconsin). No coach is better than Ryan at recruiting to his system and developing talent to it. Andersen is a first-year coach in Madison, but he went 18-8 with two bowl games in the last two seasons at Utah State. His commitment to the run game and physical defense will fit well at Wisconsin.
Football: Kevin Wilson | Basketball: Tom Crean
Crean essentially started from scratch at Indiana in 2008-09 with a depleted roster and NCAA sanctions. The Hoosiers won eight Big Ten games his first three seasons in Bloomington, but they arrived to national prominence a year earlier than expected last season. Now, Indiana is a legitimate national title contender again. IU football will always be No. 2, but Kevin Wilson has made progress in two seasons from playing a horde of freshmen in 2011. The Hoosiers improved from 1-11 overall and 0-8 in his first season to 4-8 and 2-6 in his second.
Football: Jerry Kill | Basketball: Tubby Smith
Minnesota is going to have a tough time winning in either sport, but the Gophers at least have the right coaches leading the program. Kill has won at every level from Saginaw Valley State to Emporia State to Southern Illinois to Northern Illinois. He led the Gophers back to a bowl game in his second season. Smith, who led Kentucky to a national championship in 1998, is Minnesota’s first successful basketball coach since crippling sanctions in the late 90s. He should have the Gophers in their third NCAA Tournament in five seasons.
Football: Pat Fitzgerald | Basketball: Bill Carmody
The star of Northwestern’s Rose Bowl teams has led the Wildcats to their most sustained period of success. Fitzgerald’s five consecutive bowl games is only one fewer than Northwestern had before he was promoted to replace the late Randy Walker. With a 10-3 season and a Gator Bowl win, Fitzgerald led Northwestern to its first 10-win season since 1995 and first bowl win since the 1948 season. Carmody has yet to lead Northwestern to its first NCAA Tournament in program history, but four consecutive NITs is a big deal for the Big Ten’s most historically downtrodden program.
Football: Darrell Hazell | Basketball: Matt Painter
Purdue isn’t a factor in a standout season for Big Ten basketball, but that shouldn’t diminish Painter’s tenure. The Boilermakers have reached six consecutive NCAA Tournaments, won a game on each trip and reached the Sweet 16 twice. Purdue could have been ever better those seasons if Painter had a full roster including a healthy Robbie Hummel. Hazell is a first-year coach who led Kent State to 11 wins last season. He has Big Ten ties as an assistant at Ohio State before landing with the Golden Flashes.
Football: Bo Pelini | Basketball: Tim Miles
Pelini has won nine or 10 games in each of his five seasons at Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are still struggling to reach their '90s level of prominence. Nebraska has also lost exactly four games each season, including three consecutive bowl defeats. Miles built the Colorado State program from single-digit wins his first two seasons to 20 and an NCAA Tournament berth in his last. He’ll face a similar uphill battle with Nebraska hoops.
Football: Kirk Ferentz | Basketball: Fran McCaffery
The longest-tenured football coach in the Big Ten is having trouble keeping Iowa competitive. The Hawkeyes won a share of the Big Ten in 2002 and 2004 and went to the Orange Bowl in 2009, but they’ve struggled since. The Hawkeyes are 10-14 in the Big Ten the last three seasons. After three seasons, McCaffery has rebuilt a downtrodden program into an NCAA Tournament contender in the rugged Big Ten.
11. Penn State
Football: Bill O’Brien | Basketball: Pat Chambers
It’s only been a year, but O’Brien has done a masterful job of navigating the adversity at Penn State. Despite a handful of transfers and a bowl ban, O’Brien led the Nittany Lions to an 8-4 season in 2012. He held together a standout recruiting class, but the job is going to get tougher. After winning 42 games in two seasons at Boston University, Chambers took one of the toughest jobs in the Big Ten. Without their best player, Tim Frazier, Penn State is winless in the league this season.
Football: Tim Beckman | Basketball: John Groce
After a hot start in basketball, Illinois has skidded into Big Ten play. A win over Indiana in February, however, hints the Illini aren’t out of it yet. In two NCAA Tournament appearances with Ohio, Groce helped the Bobcats to advance both times, but he was 34-30 overall in the MAC. After a nice three-year run at Toledo, Beckman had a disastrous first season at Illinois, going 2-10 overall and winless in the Big Ten.
BIG TEN COACH TANDEM RANKINGS - 2014 LINEUP
1. Ohio State
3. Michigan State
Football: Randy Edsall| Basketball: Mark Turgeon
Maryland is banking on Edsall not being nearly as bad has his first two seasons may indicated. Turgeon may be a year away from truly contending with the Terrapins.
12. Penn State
Football: Kyle Flood | Basketball: Mike Rice
Flood led Rutgers to a share of the Big East title in his first season as head coach. Rice is 19-33 in the Big East in three seasons.