There might not be anything more impressive than having both your football and basketball programs among the nation’s elite. Florida Athletic Director Jeremy Foley can take great pride in knowing that his programs could not be in better shape or in better hands under the direction of Billy Donovan and Urban Meyer.
Donovan built Florida’s basketball program into a consistent winner with eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances, capped off by a national championship last spring. Meyer has the football team preparing to play for the national championship in just his second season in Gainesville.
And both Florida mentors are young. Donovan is just 41 and Meyer is ten months older. That indicates the Gator programs could be in the same great hands for another decade or more.
Thinking about the situation at UF got me thinking about other schools that may feel they have it made with their football/basketball coaching combinations. Thus, I have come up with what I believe are the top ten tandems in coaching based on success, potential and future promise. I also considered the length of time coaches have been at their schools as well as track records at previous coaching stops. Among the schools that just missed the cut: UCLA, Pittsburgh, Arizona, Wisconsin and Texas A&M.
#10 NOTRE DAME: Charlie Weiss is just in his second year in South Bend and his second as a college coach at all, but you have to be impressed with his 19-5 record and recruiting results indicate the talent level is about to go up. Mike Brey has averaged almost 20 wins a season in six years and looks like he has a team that can get back to the NCAA’s this year.
#9 TENNESSEE: Phillip Fulmer doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his overall football success. He’s won a national title, a couple of SEC crowns and is about a hundred games over the .500 mark. Bruce Pearl built a nice program at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and won the SEC East in his first season in Knoxville. Among his 22 wins were two over the eventual NCAA Champ.
#8 LSU: Close call taking the Tigers over the Vols, but that’s what I did. Les Miles has done a fine job keeping a loaded team on target and winning games. 21-4 matches Urban Meyer’s two year record and LSU is currently #4. He also averaged eight wins his last three years at Oklahoma State which isn’t easy. John Brady led the Tigers to the SEC Title and Final Four last year and has succeeded despite a number of recruits deciding to go straight to the NBA in addition to losing several players early, notably Tyrus Thomas last year.
#7 NORTH CAROLINA: This is pretty high considering Butch Davis has not coached a game yet but we all know Davis is a fine coach and superb talent evaluator and recruiter. He left behind the most loaded roster in the history of college football when moved from Miami to the NFL. Roy Williams may have infuriated Gator fans a few years back, but he’s averaged 25 wins for his entire career and won it all two years ago.
#6 SOUTHERN CAL: Pete Carroll should probably be ranked the #1 coach in all of college football. He has two national titles, coached three Heisman Trophy winners and posted a 64-12 record … all in just six seasons. And he darn near got a chance to play for another title this year. Tim Floyd has built two other solid programs and in year two is attracting top talent to play for the Men of Troy. Still, he drags down the combo ranking.
#5 OKLAHOMA: Bob Stoops is right there challenging Carroll for the top spot in college football. His 11-2 record with all they went through this year might be the best coaching job in the country and 86 wins in eight years says it all. Jeff Capel is in his first season in Norman, but did a terrific job at Virginia Commonwealth winning 79 games in four seasons. And he left some nice talent for our old friend Anthony Grant, his successor at VCU.
#4 TEXAS: Mack Brown doesn’t get much love from us pundits and analysts, but the dude wins … A LOT! Brown’s 92-21 record at Texas is phenomenal and includes last year’s 13-0 championship season. Rick Barnes has a consistent winner in Austin; good for 24 wins a year, and won 30 last year alone. They may be down a bit this year after losing three guys to the NBA, but his consistency deserves recognition.
#3 LOUISVILLE: Bobby Petrino may suffer a bit of the wanderlust, but the man has done a superb job. The Cardinals lost their best running back and starting quarterback this year… and finished 11-1. Forty wins in four years is pretty good stuff. Rick Pitino belongs at or near the top of any conversation about coaching greats. He had not recruited as well at the ‘Ville as he did in Lexington (where he had Donovan) until last year when he loaded up. His young guns will struggle early, but he’ll have Final Four potential for the next few years.
#2 OHIO STATE: It’s amazing to think back to when Jim Tressel was about the tenth choice for the job six years ago. All the former Youngstown State task master has done is win 62 games, one national title and has the Buckeyes in the title game once again. He’s lost guys early, but just keeps reloading. He loses his linebackers from last year and in steps Butkus Award finalist James Laurinaitis. Thad Matta was a proven winner at Butler and Xavier and now has one of the nation’s most talented rosters in just his third season with the Buckeyes. It’ll be a treat to be in Gainesville for the basketball showdown December 23rd.
#1 FLORIDA: This is not a provincial pick, its pretty clear. Urban Meyer has won 60 games in six seasons despite having to upgrade three different schools in a short time. He already has a perfect season to his credit and will coach in the BCS National Title Game. He’s just 42 and already has a remarkable resume. Billy Donovan’s run with the Gators reached its peak with an NCAA Title last spring. Donovan has made basketball a big deal at a school where it rarely was before. He’ll reach 300 coaching wins before he turns 43 … amazing.
So there you have it, my top ten coaching combos in college football and basketball. Whatcha think?