Ranking the Best College Football-Basketball Coach Tandems in the Big East
Charlie Strong, Rick Pitino easy choice for top duo
By: David Fox | 2/14/13, 6:20 AM EST
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 East gave us perhaps our easiest pick for a No. 1 duo. Rick Pitino and Charlie Strong are both at or near the tops of their games. When we assemble our list of national coaching tandems, we expect Louisville to be near the top there, too.
Other spots are tough, though. Syracuse is in a similar spot Kansas was in yesterday with a Hall of Fame basketball coach or an unproven or below average football coach. Since our goal is to reward balance as much as possible, that knocks Syracuse down one spot behind Pittsburgh.
For sake of consistency, we ranked only coaching tandems who participate in the Football Bowl Subdivision and basketball in the Big East. Notre Dame, which is in the Big East in basketball and independent in football, won’t make an appearance until the national rankings. Temple played football in the Big East this year but won't join in basketball until 2013-14.
Also, we wanted to acknowledge conference realignment. Below the rankings of the seven football/basketball members, we included rankings of the eventual Big East lineup in 2015, even though we’re certain some of the schools will make coaching changes by then.
Other coach tandem rankings:
ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC
Football: Charlie Strong | Basketball: Rick Pitino
Athletic director Tom Jurich spent big to keep this duo together when Strong was a hot commodity for Tennessee during the offseason. It’s easy to see why: Louisville is on a short list of programs capable of reaching a Final Four and a BCS game in the same year. Pitino has led the Cardinals to at 25 wins and an Elite Eight or better in three of the last five seasons. Meanwhile, Strong is just getting started with the football program. He’s recruited a young team that will be a Big East favorite in 2013 and potentially a contender in the ACC when the Cards join the league in 2014.
Football: Paul Chryst | Basketball: Jamie Dixon
With a 20-5 start in 2012-13, Dixon proved last season’s CBI effort was an outlier. Before 2012, Pittsburgh was one of three teams in the Big East to reach the NCAA Tournament every year since the league reformed in 2005. (Villanova and Marquette were the others). Dixon led Pitt to a 20-win season in all of his 10 seasons with the Panthers, a Big East regular season title in 2011 and a tournament title in 2008. All that’s left is a Final Four. In football, Chryst has had one rocky season with the Panthers, but his decision to stay when his former employer Wisconsin had an opening was a positive for a team with coaching instability. We think Chryst’s philosophy will work well in the long term with Pitt.
Football: Scott Shafer | Basketball: Jim Boeheim
Boeheim joined the 900-win club this season and has a chance for another deep run in the NCAA Tournament with this group. He has 16 consecutive 20-win seasons, three Final Four appearances and the 2003 national title. We don’t have any questions about him in these rankings. Shafer is an unknown commodity after he was elevated to replace Doug Marrone during the offseason. The former Stanford and Michigan assistant turned around the Syracuse defense when he first arrived in 2009, but the Orange ranked fifth in the league in total D last season. He is a first-time head coach.
Football: Tommy Tuberville | Basketball: Mick Cronin
Both coaches are solid in their respective sports. Cronin has led the Bearcats through a lengthy rebuilding process. He started with two losing seasons, but he has Cincinnati on its way to its third consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. Tuberville was a somewhat surprising hire as the coach bolted Texas Tech this offseason. Given his baggage of jumping jobs, smacking headsets off assistants and possibly deserting recruits during a dinner, Tuberville is far removed from a his standout stretch at Auburn.
Football: Willie Taggart | Basketball: Stan Heath
Taggart excelled as a program builder at Western Kentucky. The former Jim Harbaugh assistant took the FCS program from 2-10 his first season to back-to-back seven-win seasons in his last two. USF isn’t building its program as much as it’s escaping its label as an underachiever. The Tampa native should have success in football. Heath led USF to the NCAA Tournament and a 12-6 season in the Big East last year, but that’s starting to look like an aberration. The Bulls have returned to being overmatched in Big East hoops this season with a 1-10 league record.
Football: Kyle Flood | Basketball: Mike Rice
Flood picked up where Greg Schiano left off and brought Rutgers as close as it had been to a BCS bid since 2006. The Scarlet Knights still won a share of the conference title and finished 9-4. How Flood holds up over the long term is a legitimate question, but he brought in two solid recruiting classes. Rice, so far, doesn’t look all that different from other Rutgers basketball coaches. He’s 19-33 in the Big East in less than three seasons.
Football: Paul Pasqualoni | Basketball: Kevin Ollie
Jim Calhoun’s handpicked replacement will stick around for a bit after earning a contract extension in December. Even though his first team is ineligible for the postseason, he’s kept the competitive. Pasqualoni has struggled to replicate his success at Syracuse at UConn or keep the momentum from the Randy Edsall era. He finished 5-7 in each of his two seasons despite a standout defense.
BIG EAST COACHING TANDEM RANKINGS - 2015 LINEUP
Football: Justin Fuente | Basketball: Josh Pastner
Fuente made downtrodden Memphis competitive in first season. Pastner had unfortunate task of following John Calipari, but he’s nearing the 100-win mark in four seasons.
Football: June Jones | Basketball: Larry Brown
Brown eventually will pass the baton to former Illinois coach Tim Jankovich. Jones ended SMU’s bowl drought since the NCAA’s death penalty.
Football: Matt Rhule | Basketball: Fran Dunphy
Rhule is a a first-time head coach with ties to the Al Golden staff. Few coaches have been as consistent as the defensive-minded Dunphy.
Football: George O’Leary | Basketball: Donnie Jones
O’Leary won’t win Mr. Congeniality, but he brought two Conference USA titles to UCF. Jones should have four consecutive 20-win seasons dating back to his time at Marshall but no NCAA Tournament to show for it.
8. East Carolina
Football: Ruffin McNeill | Basketball: Jeff Lebo
McNeill has led his alma mater to two bowl games and one winning season in three years. Lebo has had better results than his predecessor, but the Pirates remain a long way from the postseason.
Football: Ken Niumatalolo | Basketball: Ed DeChellis
The Midshipmen are a little less dangerous than they were under Paul Johnson, but Niumatalolo is keeping Navy in bowl games. DeChellis escaped the hot seat at Penn State for one of college hoops’ toughest jobs.
Football: Curtis Johnson | Basketball: Ed Conroy
Optimism is high for New Orleans native and Saints assistant Johnson. Conroy could led Tulane to its first winning season since 2007-08.
Football: Tony Levine | Basketball: James Dickey
Levine is going to have trouble matching predecessors Art Briles and Kevin Sumlin. Dickey is floating around .500 as the Cougars’ coach
Most Popular Articles
Sign Up For Our Newsletter
Get the latest news and find out what our Athlon Sports experts have to say each week.
Contests & Promotions
Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing!
Enter the Athlon Sports Fantasy Racing game. Just head over to athlon.myfantasyracing.com and register for your chance to win a chance to watch a 2014 race from the grandstands. You'll also have a chance to win other amazing prizes such as an autographed Kyle Busch helmet.