Ranking the best combined football-basketball seasons since the BCS
Oklahoma is riding a pretty big high in its athletic department. This fall the Sooners’ football team won the Big 12 title, reached the College Football Playoff and finished the season with 11 wins. This week the men’s basketball team is preparing to play in the Final Four in Houston.
It’s rare for schools to enjoy such a high level of success in both sports during the same season, but Oklahoma is hardly the first to do so. And even if the Sooners win the NCAA tournament on Monday, they won’t have completed the best combined football-basketball season in recent history. SI.com ranked the top 10 combined seasons since the beginning of the BCS era, including teams’ final records and rankings.
This was an easy pick. In 2006–07 Florida became the first school to claim Division I college football and basketball championships in the same academic year, and the Gators did so by beating Ohio State in both title games. Coach Billy Donovan’s basketball program won its second straight championship with the exact same starting five as the year before: Corey Brewer, Taurean Green, Lee Humphrey, Al Horford and Joakim Noah. On the gridiron, Florida won the first of two national titles under Urban Meyer with a roster that featured quarterback Chris Leak and receiver Percy Harvin.
If not for some pesky Gators, Ohio State might have had two national championships. But uncomfortable endings did little to erase two otherwise terrific seasons. Greg Oden, the eventual No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, helped the Buckeyes hoops squad win the Big Ten tournament and reach the NCAA tournament title game with wins over No. 2 seeds Georgetown and Memphis. Ohio State football rode the Heisman-winning campaign of quarterback Troy Smith to an undefeated regular season—including a win over No. 2 Michigan—and another Big Ten title under coach Jim Tressel.
Kansas football fans haven’t forgotten the 2007 season, when the Mark Mangino-led Jayhawks cruised to an 11–1 finish in the regular season. A 36–28 loss to then-No. 4 Missouri in the regular season finale denied Kansas a trip to the Big 12 title game—and a shot at a national championship—but it went on to beat No. 3 Virginia Tech 24–21 in the Orange Bowl. That result was the Jayhawks’ first and only BCS bowl victory. Three months later, Bill Self, Mario Chalmers and the Kansas basketball team capped a 37–3 season with a thrilling overtime win over Memphis in the national championship game in San Antonio.
After disposing of the likes of Duke and Wichita State in the NCAA tournament, Louisville won the 2013 national championship by rallying from 12 points down to beat Michigan 82–76 in Atlanta. The win cemented Rick Pitino as the first coach to claim national titles at two different schools (the other being Kentucky). But Pitino’s coaching counterpart was having a good year, as well: Charlie Strong finished his third season at Louisville with a head-turning 33–23 win over fourth-ranked Florida in the Sugar Bowl. That victory solidified an 11-win season for the Cardinals, who also claimed their second straight Big East title earlier in the year.
Vince Young’s go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown run against USC remains one of the iconic moments in college football history. The Texas quarterback’s heroic effort lifted the No. 2 Longhorns to the 2005 national championship over the top-ranked Trojans. The victory in a matchup of college football’s only two remaining undefeated teams gave coach Mack Brown’s program its first national title in 35 years. The following spring, Rick Barnes’s Longhorns won 30 games and the program’s first Big 12 regular-season title in seven years en route to a berth in the Elite Eight.
This fall Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops proved his program knows how to bounce back. After a disappointing 8–5 seasons in 2014, the Sooners turned around and won the Big 12 championship after disposing of Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU in the season’s final weeks. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and Co. earned a playoff spot as a No. 4 seed, where they lost to Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The fate of Oklahoma’s basketball team remains unwritten; electric scorer Buddy Hield and the Sooners, winners of 29 games this season, await a matchup with Villanova in the Final Four.
Ohio State football bested four top-25 teams, including 11th-ranked Michigan, as part of a stellar 10–1 regular season. But a loss to unranked Michigan State on Nov. 7 kept senior quarterback Joe Germaine and the Buckeyes out of the national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, coach John Cooper’s program went on to beat No. 8 Texas A&M 24–14 in the Sugar Bowl. On the hardwood, No. 4-seed Ohio State upset No. 1 Auburn and No. 3 St. Joe’s on a run to the Final Four, where it fell to another No. 1 seed in UConn. The Buckeyes still won 27 games under head coach Jim O’Brien.
Hollis Price and Oklahoma careened into the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed after upsetting top-ranked Kansas 64–55 in the Big 12 tournament championship. That victory, which secured the Sooners’ second consecutive conference tourney title, was the program’s 12th straight as it entered March Madness. Coach Kelvin Sampson’s squad won four more contests to reach the Final Four but fell to No. 5 Indiana. Bob Stoops’s football program likewise enjoyed postseason success, carrying a 10-win regular season into the Cotton Bowl and beating Arkansas 10–3.
The final game of Bobby Petrino’s second season at Louisville featured one of the highest-scoring contests in Liberty Bowl history. Cardinals safety Kerry Rhodes intercepted a late Jared Zabransky pass in the end zone to cement a 44–40 win over No. 10 Boise State and just the second 11-win season in school history for Louisville. Meanwhile, Rick Pitino’s Cardinals took a major leap from a 20–10 season the previous year and cruised to the Final Four in 2005. Fourth-seeded Louisville upset No. 1 seed Washington in the Sweet Sixteen before falling to another No. 1 seed, Illinois, in a national semifinal in front of a home crowd in Louisville.
Barnes’s 2002–03 Texas basketball squad didn’t win the Big 12—Oklahoma did, just before earning a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament—but the Longhorns toppled the Sooners twice during the regular season and went on to reach the Final Four as a fellow No. 1 seed. Wooden Award winner T.J. Ford and 26-win Texas lost a national semifinal to Syracuse, the eventual champions. The basketball team’s run followed a solid football campaign, during which Mack Brown led the Longhorns to an 11–2 season and a Cotton Bowl victory over LSU.
Other notables: 1999–2000 Wisconsin, 2002–03 Oklahoma, 2010–11 Ohio State, 2013–14 Michigan State, 2014–15 Michigan State