Michigan State takes the top spot in the coaching tandems for 2018.
Rankings are nothing new when it comes to college football and basketball, but what about combining the two sports? That’s what Athlon Sports has set out to do once again this offseason, sizing up the coaching tandems in both for the Power 5 conferences. With spring practice starting up across the country and March Madness just around the corner, there’s no better time for this type of exercise.
So when it comes to coaching bragging rights, which school gets top billing? For the third year in a row, Michigan State’s dynamic duo of Mark Dantonio and Tom Izzo comes out on top. The Spartans are one of three Big Ten teams in the top 10, joined by Ohio State (No. 4) and Michigan (No. 10). The SEC also has three teams in that range, led by No. 3 Alabama. In between the Crimson Tide and Spartans is Duke with Auburn rounding 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.
Ranking the Nation's Top 40 Football-Basketball Coaching Duos
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.
Football: David Cutcliffe
Basketball: Mike Krzyzewski
Cutcliffe guided the Blue Devils back to a bowl game after a one-year hiatus. In the past five seasons, he is 48–27 with four bowl trips — unprecedented success in the modern era of Duke football. Krzyzewski is one of the most successful coaches in the history of college basketball. He has the top three players in the 2018 recruiting class either signed or committed to play for the Blue Devils next season.
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. Johnson has done a tremendous job on the recruiting trail and will have Alabama in the NCAA Tournament this March for the first time since 2012.
4. Ohio State
Football: Urban Meyer
Basketball: Chris Holtmann
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: Gus Malzahn
Basketball: Bruce Pearl
Malzahn’s stock is up after guiding the Tigers to the SEC West championship in 2017. The Tigers’ basketball team — on the verge of an SEC regular-season title — has been arguably the biggest surprise in the nation this season. Pearl, however, could find himself out of a job due to the ongoing FBI investigation.
Football: Gary Patterson
Basketball: Jamie Dixon
Patterson is more than 100 games over .500 in his 16 years at 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 has made TCU, his alma mater, nationally relevant in only his second year.
7. Virginia Tech
Football: Justin Fuente
Basketball: Buzz Williams
Fuente (above, right) is 19–8 overall and 11–5 in the ACC in two seasons at Virginia Tech. He is building a program that will compete for Coastal Division titles for years to come. Williams has elevated the Virginia Tech hoops program in his three-plus seasons and could be headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season. He’s a highly respected coach who guided Marquette to the Tournament five times in six seasons.
Football: Mark Stoops
Basketball: John Calipari
After a rocky start, Stoops has led Kentucky to two straight bowl games. The Wildcats are 8–8 in the SEC over the last two seasons. Calipari’s status as the most prominent basketball coach in the league puts Kentucky near the top of this list.
Football: Chris Petersen
Basketball: Mike Hopkins
Petersen is 15–3 in the league in the last two seasons, and his team will be the preseason pick to win the Pac-12 title in 2018. Hopkins has done a masterful job in his first year as a head coach. The Huskies, 2–16 in the Pac-12 last season, are squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
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: Dabo Swinney
Basketball: Brad Brownell
Swinney further cemented his reputation as one of the game’s elite coaches by leading Clemson to a CFB Playoff spot for the third straight season. He continues to recruit at a very high level and will have team ranked in the top one or two spots in most preseason polls. Brownell is on the verge of a breakthrough season at Clemson; the Tigers are headed to an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2011, his first season at the school.
13. Notre Dame
Football: Brian Kelly
Basketball: Mike Brey
The Irish slumped to 4–8 in 2016 but rebounded with 10 wins last fall. 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 17 seasons.
Football: Chip Kelly
Basketball: Steve Alford
Kelly was a home-run hire for a school eager to return to national relevance in college football. He went 33–1 in the Pac-12 in four seasons as the coach at Oregon. There always seems to be a lot of drama surrounding Alford and the UCLA basketball program, but he has guided the Bruins to three Sweet 16 appearances in his four full seasons at the school.
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 8.8 wins over the last four seasons and is 19–17 in league play over that stretch under Whittingham (above, right). Krystkowiak has done a terrific job rebuilding the Utah basketball program. In his last three full seasons, the Utes are 13–5, 13–5 and 11–7 in the Pac-12.
16. 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 28.7 wins in 29 seasons and has won three national titles. Fedora’s career has been highlighted by two very good seasons (12–2 at Southern Miss in 2011 and 11–3 at UNC in '15). He’s averaged a rather ordinary 6.8 wins in his other eight seasons.
Football: Mark Richt
Basketball: Jim Larranaga
Richt has built his alma mater into a legitimate national title contender after two seasons on the job. That followed a 15-year run at Georgia in which he went 83–37 in SEC games — but failed to win a league championship in his final 10 years. Larranaga, who is 22 games over .500 in the ACC in his six-plus seasons at Miami, is one of the nation’s most underrated coaches.
18. West Virginia
Football: Dana Holgorsen
Basketball: Bob Huggins
Holgorsen has been good, but not great, in his six seasons at WVU. He went 7–2 in the Big 12 in 2016 and 5–4 last fall. The Mountaineers could contend for the league title in 2018. Huggins has enjoyed a remarkable — and underappreciated — career. He has had only two losing conference seasons in 32 years as a Division I head coach.
Football: Lincoln Riley
Basketball: Lon Kruger
Riley (above, right) guided Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff in his first season as a head coach. His task now: Prove he can keep the Sooners among the nation’s elite programs. Kruger is the only coach in history to win an NCAA Tournament game at five schools (Kansas State, Florida, Illinois, UNLV and Oklahoma).
Football: Dan Mullen
Basketball: Mike White
Mullen did an outstanding job during his tenure as the head coach at Mississippi State and should thrive at Florida, potentially one of the top programs in the country. White finally broke through and took a team to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 for the first time in his six years as a head coach. The Gators will be back in the NCAAs this March and have an outstanding recruiting class coming in.
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: Kirby Smart
Basketball: Mark Fox
Smart and the Bulldogs made a huge leap in Year 2, improving from 8–5 in 2016 to 13–2 and a spot in the national title game in 2017. And with the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation on the way to Athens, Georgia will remain one of the nation’s elite programs. Fox could be on his way out as the Bulldogs figure to miss the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in his nine seasons.
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.
24. 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 fourth time in his six seasons at K-State.
Football: David Beaty
Basketball: Bill Self
Beaty is 3–33 in three seasons in charge of the KU football program. He will need to show some signs of progress in 2018 to remain on the job. Self, with 13 straight Big 12 titles, is one of the elite coaches in college basketball.
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.
27. 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.
28. Florida State
Football: Willie Taggart
Basketball: Leonard Hamilton
Taggart arrives at Florida State after successful stops at Western Kentucky, South Florida and Oregon. His overall record of 47–50 is hardly eye-popping, but he’s taken on rebuilds at each previous stop. He is a Florida native who is regarded as an elite recruiter. Taggart should win big in Tallahassee. Hamilton, in his 16th season at Florida State, should have the Seminoles in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
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 in 2016. The Buffs took a step back last fall, going 5–7 overall and 2–7 in the league. Next season will be key for MacIntyre and the Buffs. Boyle has done a very good job with the basketball program, leading the Buffs to the NCAA Tournament four times in his first six full seasons.
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 two seasons on the Farm.
31. Iowa State
Football: Matt Campbell
Basketball: Steve Prohm
The Cyclones were one of the most improved teams in the nation in Campbell’s second season, going 8–5 overall and 5–4 in the Big 12 (highlighted by a win at Oklahoma). The basketball program is rebuilding in 2017-18, but Prohm has kept Iowa State relevant in the Big 12 following in the footsteps of the wildly popular Fred Hoiberg.
Football: Tom Herman
Basketball: Shaka Smart
This pairing looks great on paper, but is more about potential at this point. Herman did a solid job in his first year at Texas, but the Longhorns still only went 7–6. Over the last two seasons, Herman’s teams are a combined 8–7 in league games (5–3 at Houston in 2016, 5–4 at Texas in ‘17). The basketball team is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year after receiving a bid in 2016, Smart’s first season.
Football: Dino Babers
Basketball: Jim Boeheim
Babers thrived at his first two stops as a head coach (Eastern Illinois and Bowling Green) but is only 8–16 in two seasons 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.
Football: Bronco Mendenhall
Basketball: Tony Bennett
Mendenhall went 2–10 in his first season at Virginia, the first time in his career he’s had a losing record. He rebounded to win six games in Year 2 and appears to have the program on the right track. He won 99 games in 11 seasons at BYU. Bennett and Arizona’s Sean Miller are battling for the title as the top coach in college basketball who has never been to a Final Four.
35. Texas A&M
Football: Jimbo Fisher
Basketball: Billy Kennedy
Texas A&M wanted to make a big slash with its football search — and the Aggies did just that, luring Fisher away from Florida State. In eight seasons at FSU, Fisher went 48–17 in the ACC and won the national title in 2013. The A&M basketball team has rebounded from a disappointing start to SEC play and should be back in the NCAA Tournament for the second time in Kennedy’s five seasons at the school.
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: Mario Cristobal
Basketball: Dana Altman
Cristobal gets his second shot as a head coach after recording a 27–47 mark in six seasons at FIU — in a very tough situation — from 2007-12. There will be pressure on him to return Oregon football to national relevance. 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. The Ducks reached the Final Four last season.
38. South Carolina
Football: Will Muschamp
Basketball: Frank Martin
Muschamp has improved his reputation nationally — which wasn’t great after his struggles at Florida — by guiding South Carolina to a bowl game in 2016 and then a nine-win season in '17. Martin broke through with a trip to the Final Four in his fifth year at South Carolina — it’s his only trip to the NCAA Tournament at the school — but the Gamecocks will miss the NCAAs this season.
Football: Bobby Petrino
Basketball: David Padgett (interim)
Petrino has won at every stop (in the college game) and has an impressive 21–11 record in ACC play in his four years since returning to Louisville. Don’t forget: He went a combined 12–4 in the SEC in his final two seasons at Arkansas. Padgett, only 33 years old, was thrust into the job as Louisville’s interim head basketball coach after Rick Pitino was fired in the fall. He has done an outstanding job — especially considering the circumstances — and has an opportunity to get the job on a permanent basis.
40. Mississippi State
Football: Joe Moorhead
Basketball: Ben Howland
Mississippi State is making progress in Year 3 under Howland and has played its way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble in recent weeks. He’s recruiting well but has yet to make a big move in the SEC. Moorhead is a highly respected former offensive coordinator at Penn State and head coach at Fordham. He is inheriting a talented team from Florida-bound Dan Mullen.