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Ranking the Nation's Top 40 Football-Basketball Coaching Duos

Michigan State takes the top spot in the coaching tandems.

Ranking the college football and basketball head coaching tandems for the Power 5 conferences is no easy assignment. But that’s what Athlon Sports has set out to do this offseason, as spring practice is just starting around the nation for all 130 teams and tournament time is approaching for teams on the hardwood. Michigan State tops the rankings with Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo as its tandem. Duke, Louisville, Alabama and Ohio State round out the top five.

 

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.

 

By Conference: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

 

Ranking the Nation's Top 40 Football-Basketball Coaching Duos

 

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. Duke

Football: David Cutcliffe

Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski

 

The Blue Devils took a step back on the football field in 2016, but Cutcliffe’s résumé still shows a combined 27 wins in a three-year period from 2013-15. Krzyzewski is one of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball.

 

Related: Early ACC Predictions for 2017

 

3. Louisville

Football: Bobby Petrino

Basketball: Rick Pitino

 

Petrino has won at every stop (in the college game) and has an impressive 17–7 record in ACC play in his three years since returning to Louisville. Don’t forget: He went a combined 12–4 in the SEC in his final two seasons at Arkansas. Pitino has won over 750 games in stops at Boston University, Providence, Kentucky and Louisville.

 

4. Alabama

Football: Nick Saban

Basketball: Avery Johnson

 

Saban’s (deserved) reputation as the top college football coach in the nation vaults this duo to the top of the list. Avery Johnson has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail and figures to have Alabama back among the top programs in the league in the near future.  

 

Related: Early College Football Top 25 for 2017

 

5. 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).

 

Related: Early Top 50 Players Returning for 2017

 

6. Michigan

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.

 

7. Kentucky

Football: Mark Stoops

Basketball: John Calipari

 

Calipari’s status as far and away the best basketball coach in the league puts Kentucky safely at No. 2 on this list. Stoops’ seat was red hot as recently as October, but the Wildcats won five of their last seven in the regular season, highlighted by a 41–38 victory at Louisville. Another bowl appearance in 2017 — which is likely — would cement his status as a solid SEC coach.

 

8. Utah

Football: Kyle Whittingham

Basketball: Larry Krystkowiak

 

After a relatively rough transition from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, the Utah football program has averaged 9.3 wins over the last three seasons and is 16–11 in league play over that stretch. Krystkowiak has done a masterful job rebuilding the Utah basketball program. The Utes went 13–5 in the Pac-12 in each of the last two full seasons and could be headed back to the NCAA Tournament for a third straight year with a strong finish.

 

9. Oregon

Football: Willie Taggart

Basketball: Dana Altman

 

Taggart’s tenure in Eugene got off to a difficult start with some off-the-field issues, but he brings a solid résumé to his new job. Altman is regarded as one of the elite coaches in college basketball and has elevated the status of this program nationally in the past few seasons. 

 

Related: Grading College Football's New Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

10. Oklahoma

Football: Bob Stoops

Basketball: Lon Kruger

 

Stoops is one of the most underappreciated coaches in the nation. He has averaged 10.6 wins in his 18 seasons in Norman and has won 10 Big 12 championships. Kruger is the only coach in history to win an NCAA Tournament game at five schools (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma).

 

Related: Early Big 12 Predictions for 2017

 

11. North Carolina

Football: Larry Fedora

Basketball: Roy Williams

 

The Williams critics point out that he’s been a head coach at Kansas and North Carolina — two schools where it’s hard NOT to win — but the fact remains that he’s averaged a staggering 28.0 wins in 28 seasons. Fedora’s career has been highlighted by two very good seasons (12–2 at Southern Miss in 2011 and 11–3 at UNC in 2015). He’s averaged a rather ordinary 7.2 wins in his other seven seasons.

 

12. Virginia Tech

Football: Justin Fuente

Basketball: Buzz Williams

 

Fuente did a great job in his first season at Tech, guiding the Hokies to the ACC Coastal Division title. Williams, who led Marquette to the NCAA Tournament five times in six seasons at the school, is on the verge of taking the Hokies to the NCAAs in Year 3. 

 

Related: Ranking the ACC's Football Rosters for 2017

 

13. Notre Dame

Football: Brian Kelly

Basketball: Mike Brey

 

The Irish slumped to 4–8 in 2016, but Kelly is still one of the game's better coaches. He has won every stop, including two Division II national titles while at Grand Valley State and an undefeated regular season at Cincinnati. Brey is one of college basketball's most respected coaches. He has guided the Irish to the NCAA Tournament 11 times in 16 seasons. 

 

14. Colorado

Football: Mike MacIntyre

Basketball: Tad Boyle

 

MacIntyre earned several National Coach of the Year honors after guiding the Buffaloes to the Pac-12 South title. He has now completed successful rebuilds at both San Jose State and Colorado. Boyle has done a very good job with the basketball program, leading the Buffs to the NCAA Tournament four times in his first five seasons. This year has been a bit of a struggle, but he is an outstanding coach.

 

15. TCU

Football: Gary Patterson

Basketball: Jamie Dixon

 

Patterson is nearly 100 games over .500 in his 16 years TCU and has six league titles (one in C-USA, four in the Mountain West, one in the Big 12) on his résumé. Dixon led Pittsburgh to the NCAA Tournament 11 times in his 13 years at the school and is authoring a quicker-than-expected turnaround at TCU, his alma mater.

 

16. Texas

Football: Tom Herman

Basketball: Shaka Smart

 

This pairing looks great on paper, but is more about potential at this point. After making the NCAA Tournament last season (losing in the first round as a No. 6 seed), Texas is headed toward its first losing season since 1998. Herman appears to be a great fit at Texas, but he has yet to coach a game in the Big 12.

 

17. Oklahoma State

Football: Mike Gundy

Basketball: Brad Underwood

 

Gundy’s success in league play might surprise you; he has a 63–39 record in Big 12 games in 12 seasons (and that includes a 1–7 mark in Year 1). Underwood recorded an astounding 53–1 record in Southland Conference games in his three seasons at Stephen F. Austin. It would be a big surprise if he doesn’t enjoy success at Oklahoma State.

 

18. Auburn

Football: Gus Malzahn

Basketball: Bruce Pearl

 

Pearl has yet to break through at Auburn, but his track record is too good — at both Tennessee and Milwaukee — and his recruiting too strong to believe that he won’t get it done at Auburn. Malzahn’s stock isn’t quite as high as it was a few years ago, but he is still a very good coach who has an 18–14 record in the SEC in four seasons at Auburn.

 

19. Florida State

Football: Jimbo Fisher

Basketball: Leonard Hamilton

 

Fisher is on the short list of active college football head coaches with a national championship. He has a 78–17 record in seven seasons. Hamilton, in his 15th season at Florida State, will have the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Prior to this recent slump, FSU went to the NCAAs every year from 2009-12.

 

20. Clemson

Football: Dabo Swinney

Basketball: Brad Brownell

 

Swinney silenced his critics by winning the 2016 national championship — one year after losing in the national championship game. Brownell is a highly respected coach who has struggled to break through at Clemson. The Tigers could be headed to the NCAAs in 2017.

 

21. Northwestern

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.

 

22. Wisconsin

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.

 

23. Miami

Football: Mark Richt

Basketball: Jim Larranaga

 

Richt did a nice job in his first season at his alma mater. That followed a 15-year run at Georgia in which he went 83–37 in SEC games — but failed to win a league title in his final 10 years. Larranaga, who is 20 games over .500 in the ACC in his five-plus seasons at Miami, is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.

 

Related: A Very Early College Football Top 25 for 2017


24. UCLA

Football: Jim Mora

Basketball: Steve Alford

 

Mora’s done a decent job at UCLA, with an overall record of 41–24 and a 25–20 mark in league games, but the general feeling — both among UCLA fans and nationally — is that the program is not reaching its potential. Alford reached the Sweet 16 in his first two seasons at UCLA before hitting rock bottom with a 15–17 record last season. However, it’s safe to say the Bruins are back. The ’16-17 team is one of the best in the nation and the program is well-positioned to win at a high level in the next few years.

 

25. Mississippi State

Football: Dan Mullen

Basketball: Ben Howland

 

Mullen has had only one winning SEC record in seven seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, but he is 61–42 overall and has guided Mississippi State to a bowl game in each of the past seven seasons. Howland, like Johnson at Alabama and Pearl at Auburn, appears to have his program on an upward trajectory — even if the record doesn’t show it. 

 

26. Florida

Football: Jim McElwain

Basketball: Mike White

 

McElwain has won two SEC East titles in his two seasons at Florida, but Gators fans don’t seem to be overly impressed. Maybe it’s because the East has been down. Maybe it’s because his recruiting has been a bit lackluster. White has a great reputation in coaching circles, but it must be noted that he has yet to take any of his five teams (four at Louisiana Tech, one at Florida) to the NCAA Tournament. That drought will end next month.

 

27. Arizona

Football: Rich Rodriguez

Basketball: Sean Miller

 

Miller elevates this duo to near the top of the rankings. It’s only a matter of time before he leads Arizona to a national championship. Rodriguez is highly respected nationally, but he went 6–18 in the Big Ten in three seasons at Michigan and is 18–26 in the Pac-12 in five seasons at Arizona. 

 

Related: Early Pac-12 Predictions for 2017

 

28. Tennessee

Football: Butch Jones

Basketball: Rick Barnes

 

Jones isn’t exactly the most popular guy in Knoxville right now, but there is no denying that he has raised the profile of the program and has the Vols back in the national conversation. At some point, he will need to win a division title (at least) to satisfy the demanding Tennessee faithful. Barnes had some great years at Texas, but it seems unlikely that he will return the Vols’ basketball program to the levels it reached under Pearl in the late 2000s.

 

29. Kansas

Football: David Beaty

Basketball: Bill Self

 

Self, with 12 straight Big 12 titles, is one of the elite coaches in college basketball. Beaty is 2–22 in two seasons in charge of the KU football program. He will be given ample time to turn things around.

 

Related: College Football's Top 20 Impact JUCO QBs for 2017

 

30. Syracuse
Football: Dino Babers

Basketball: Jim Boeheim

 

Babers thrived at his first two stops as a head coach (Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green) but went 4–8 in Year 1 at Syracuse. He will be given time to turn things around. Boeheim has won one national championship and been to five Final Fours in his storied career at his alma mater.

 

31. Kansas State

Football: Bill Snyder

Basketball: Bruce Weber

 

Snyder oversaw arguably the greatest reclamation project in the history of college football and will be remembered as one of the all-time greats. Weber is regarded as an outstanding coach and average recruiter. The Wildcats appear headed to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in his five seasons at K-State.

 

32. Iowa

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.

 

33. Purdue

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. 

 

Related: Grading College Football's Head Coach Hires for 2017

 

34. Stanford

Football: David Shaw

Basketball: Jerod Haase

 

Shaw has the Stanford football program in great shape. Haase is a bit of a mystery at this point. He did an outstanding job at UAB, but the Cardinal have been a bit underwhelming in his first season on the Farm.

 

35. Washington

Football: Chris Petersen

Basketball: Lorenzo Romar

 

Petersen might be the No. 1 football coach in the league, but the Huskies check in at No. 7 on this list due to Romar and the slumping basketball program.

 

36. 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.

 

37. West Virginia

Football: Dana Holgorsen

Basketball: Bob Huggins

 

Huggins has enjoyed a remarkable — and underappreciated — career. He has had only two losing conference seasons in 31 years as a Division I head coach. Holgorsen has been good, but not great, in his six seasons at WVU. He went 7–2 in the Big 12 in 2016.

 

Related: Big 12's Top 15 Players Returning From Injury in 2017

 

38. Baylor

Football: Matt Rhule

Basketball: Scott Drew

 

With Baylor enjoying one of its best regular seasons in program history, Drew is finally earning some recognition for his coaching — not just his recruiting prowess. He will have the Bears in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Rhule did a tremendous job at Temple, winning 10 games in each of the last two seasons. He has a difficult rebuild at Baylor — mostly due to off-the-field issues.

 

39. Ole Miss

Football: Huge Freeze

Basketball: Andy Kennedy

 

Freeze’s stock is slipping due to the Rebels’ surprising struggles in 2016 (2–6 SEC record) and the ongoing NCAA issues at Ole Miss. Kennedy is an interesting study: He has reached the NCAA Tournament only two times in 10 seasons, but he has had a .500 or better record in the SEC seven times. He’s been consistently solid at a place that doesn’t have great basketball tradition.

 

40. South Carolina

Football: Will Muschamp

Basketball: Frank Martin

 

Muschamp improved his reputation nationally — which wasn’t great after his struggles at Florida — by guiding an undermanned South Carolina team to a bowl game. It’s been a slow build for Martin and the basketball program, but the Gamecocks appear to be headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.  

Event Date: 
Monday, February 27, 2017 - 11:20

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