Corey Nichols, a fellow KSR writer, wrote a post a few days ago talking about whether or not a school like Kentucky, where basketball has always been first AND with a coach like John Calipari, could also realistically support a top-notch head football coach. I’m not here to argue whether or not such a thing could ever be possible at the University of Kentucky. I’m also not here to dive into whether or not football is treated as a second class citizen at the University of Kentucky. I’m not here to ask for basketball to be put on the back burner. My intentions are simply to explore if and when a school has recently managed to be elite in both men’s basketball and football. I will limit myself to the more recent history, mostly exploring the last 15 years. Nothing that I unveil should come as a big mystery for many who pay attention to both college basketball and football, but sometimes it’s nice to see things laid out a bit more clearly. Some food for thought…
In the last 2 years:
2011-2012 College Football Final Top 10: LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon, Arkansas, Boise State, Kansas State, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
*Of those 10 teams, only 3 were in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament field of 64: Wisconsin, Kansas State and Alabama. Wisconsin made the Sweet 16. Alabama lost in their opening game. Kansas State lost in the round of 32.
2010-2011 College Football Final Top 10: Auburn, Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Michigan State and Boise State.
*Again, of those 10 teams, only 3 were in the NCAA men’s basketball field of 64. Ohio State was the favorite heading into the tournament, but fell in the Sweet 16 (what up Josh Harrellson?). Wisconsin made the Sweet 16. Michigan State lost in the first round.
College Football BCS Champions since 1998:
Tennessee, Florida State, Oklahoma, Miami (Fla), Ohio State, LSU, USC (well…), Texas, Florida, Alabama and Auburn.
*Of the 11 schools mentioned, since 1998 only 2 have performed near the top of the college basketball world on a consistent basis: Florida and Ohio State. Florida pulled off the big coup, winning a national championship in both sports in 2006. Of the schools listed, Texas and Tennessee would perhaps fall into the next tier of teams who have consistently been in the conversation for the top 25 in college basketball since 1998.
College Basketball National Champions since 1998:
Kentucky, UCONN, Michigan State, Duke, Maryland, Syracuse, North Carolina, Florida and Kansas
*The only common school on both the football and basketball lists is Florida. Of the schools to win a national basketball championship since 1998, I would only describe Florida as an “elite” football school. Michigan State, Kansas and UCONN have had successful years in football in their respective conferences, though not considered to be “elite”.
Overall recent football record of “elite” college basketball schools
Kentucky (since 1998): 75 -98
North Carolina (since 1998): 65-93
Duke (since 1999): 25-114
Kansas (since 1997): 76-101
Current AP Top 25 in college football:
Alabama, Oregon, LSU, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina, Kansas State, Stanford, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida, Texas, USC, Ohio State, TCU, Oklahoma, Clemson, Oregon State, Louisville, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Rutgers, Boise State and Baylor.
*How many of the 25 schools listed were really good in college basketball last season? Florida? Ohio State? Louisville? Michigan State? Baylor? That’s 5 of the top 25, or 20% for those who prefer percentages. Of the top 10 programs in college football this season, only 1 was a legitimate NCAA tournament contender in basketball last year: Florida State. Coincidentally, how many of the top 25 schools listed would you call “basketball schools,” or schools where basketball is given the most attention/priority? Michigan State and Louisville are the only 2 I see on the list that stand out as possibilities.
In the last 15 years, a number of schools have found a way to be respectable in both football and men’s college basketball. A handful have been consistently strong in both (Ohio State, Florida, Texas, Wisconsin). But when you think of the best of the best in men’s college basketball– the top 4 programs as of late (Kentucky, North Carolina, Duke, Kansas), none of those schools are the “elite” in college football. None of them are even in the very good category.
A rare year in which both teams are strong happens from time to time as well. Baylor was a perfect example last year. Louisville looks primed to join that category this year. Recent history shows us though that it’s just not very likely. You can point to a few exceptions, but the common trend does lend to the thought that being elite in both men’s basketball and football is a difficult task– and one which hasn’t been achieved very often in the last 15 years.
Elite in both college basketball and college football…Can it be done? Yes. Just look at Florida in 2006. But is it possible for that high level in both to be sustained over a period of time?