While the SEC is considered college football’s best conference, the coaching ranks aren’t particularly deep on the gridiron. Alabama’s Nick Saban ranks as the best coach in the nation, but the next few spots are up for grabs. A similar situation plays out on the hardwood. Kentucky’s John Calipari is one of the nation’s best college basketball coaches and ranks as the best in the SEC. But who follows Calipari in the SEC as the league’s No. 2 coach?
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 SEC's Football-Basketball Coaching Duos for 2017
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.
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.
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.
4. 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.
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.
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.
Related: Early SEC Predictions for 2017
7. 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.
8. 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.
Football: Derek Mason
Basketball: Bryce Drew
No coach nationally improved his status more in the final two weeks of the 2016 regular season than Mason, whose team reached bowl eligibility by beating Ole Miss and rival Tennessee. Drew is in his first season at Vanderbilt after winning big at Valparaiso (65–19 conference record in five seasons).
10. Texas A&M
Football: Kevin Sumlin
Basketball: Billy Kennedy
This might seem a bit low, but Sumlin is only two games over .500 in the SEC at a school that recently spent well over $200 million to renovate its stadium (translation: Texas A&M really wants to be very good at football), and Kennedy has made the NCAA Tournament only one time in four seasons at A&M — and isn’t likely to make it this year, either.
Football: Bret Bielema
Basketball: Mike Anderson
Bielema’s reputation is better than the results; he’s 10–22 in the SEC in four seasons (and 10–14 if you remove his first season in which he went 0–8 under adverse circumstances). Anderson’s inability to get Arkansas basketball back to the upper tier of the SEC has been puzzling. The Hogs have reached the NCAA Tournament one time in his five full seasons.
Football: Kirby Smart
Basketball: Mark Fox
The early returns for Smart the football coach weren’t very good (8–5 record in Year 1). The early returns for Smart the recruiting are outstanding (top-5 signing class). We will see if doing well in the latter leads to success in the former. Fox is over .500 in his seven-plus seasons at Georgia but has reached the NCAA Tournament only twice.
Football: Ed Orgeron
Basketball: Johnny Jones
Orgeron did a solid job as the Tigers’ interim head coach last season; we will soon find out how he does as the full-time boss. Jones entered the 2016-17 with a 40–32 record in the SEC but has guided his alma mater to only one NCAA Tournament appearance in four seasons (and none with Ben Simmons on his roster). The Tigers are struggling mightily in Year 5.
Football: Barry Odom
Basketball: Kim Anderson
Odom’s first season as the head coach at his alma mater ended on a solid note (a comeback win over Arkansas), but the Tigers had their worst overall record (4–8, .333) since 2000. Anderson took over a tough situation (gutted roster, NCAA sanctions), but his tenure has been a huge disappointment.