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Ranking the top 5 SEC football-basketball coaching duos

Photo Credit: Matt Stone/ The Courier Journal

An athletic director's dream is having two elite coaches in the two most popular collegiate sports: Football and Basketball. The SEC has always been a Football powerhouse conference, and has recently been on the uprise in Basketball.

The list today features the five best coaching duos in Football and Basketball at their respective schools. Take into account multiple programs have excellent coaches in one sport such as Kirby Smart at Georgia and Bruce Pearl at Auburn, but their coaching duo within the other sport, Mike White and Bryan Harsin are holding them back from cracking the top five of this list.

The SEC has some really good coaching tandems that have their Football and Basketball programs competing at a high level year in and year out. I've attempted to rank what I believe are the best five:

5. Buzz Williams and Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M

Photo Credit: Charean Williams/

The No. 5 spot was a difficult one. I considered Brian Kelly and Matt McMahon at LSU for their contributions to their previous schools, but I think Buzz and Jimbo have a better footing in the conference than the former two do as of now.

Buzz Williams is coming off a season where his team was projected 12th in the SEC from the preseason poll. His team finished 8th, but went into the SEC tourney as the hottest team in the conference: knocking off No. 9 Florida and No.1 Auburn, while stomping No. 4 Arkansas in the semifinals. Their miracle run was stopped short in the championship game against Tennessee, and not long after Buzz's team was snubbed out of the NCAA Tournament.

Jimbo Fisher had his Aggie football team come into the year with unbelievably high expectations. Being ranked No. 6 preseason, the start to the 2022-23 Football season has been somewhat a let down from Jimbo Fisher and Company after they suffered a loss to Appalachian St. at home. Jimbo Fisher has an extremely impressive resume featuring a national championship in 2014 as the Head coach of Florida State and had Texas A&M as the first team out of the college football playoff in 2020. Since he took over at Texas A&M, he has won at least eight games in each of the four full seasons he's coached.

Not many have the guts to call out Nick Saban like Jimbo Fisher did, and with Buzz Williams giving Texas A&M fans a fresh taste of the basketball program, this duo was worthy of the fifth-best coaching duo in the conference.

4. Sam Pittman and Eric Musselman, Arkansas

Photo Credit: Charlie Kaijo/ WholeHogsSports

Putting the duo of Eric Musselman and Sam Pittman at No. 4 was a hard choice to make. Sam Pittman seems to finally have the ball rolling for the Football program, coming off a nine-win 2021 season and entering the 2022 season as a ranked team.

Although, I don't think the Razorback's are having the season they had hoped for. Starting off 3-0, he team has dropped three straight games all to ranked opponents which cushions the blow somewhat. Don't get me wrong, Sam Pittman has the program at a place it hasn't been at in a while, achieving the schools first 9+ win season since 2011 when Bobby Petrino was the Football coach. If this list was made a couple years ago, Arkansas's duo probably would not have even been considered.

On the basketball side, Eric Musselman has completely revived the program. Musselman managed to take the Razorback's to their first Elite Eight in 2021 since 1995, and did it for the second straight year just this past season, taking down the Tournament's top seed Gonzaga. Musselman has brought a refreshing swagger to the program. Players now want to play at Arkansas, which is evident in the Razorback's #2 ranked recruiting class for 2022: Top-three prospect Nick Smith headlines the class, while fellow five-stars Anthony Black and Jordan Walsh join him and 3 other top-150 recruits. Musselman has the Razorbacks reloaded for the new season as they look to have another top-15 preseason ranking and look to compete for another SEC title.

In the coming years it will likely be hard to place the Razorback's coaching duo as low as No. 4, but for now I think this spot will suffice.

3. Josh Heupel and Rick Barnes, Tennessee

Photo Credit: Charlie Burris/

Tennessee's Josh Heupel has the Football program reaching heights we haven't seen in a long time from Rocky Top. The Vols are currently the No. 6 team in the country and host No. 3 Alabama on Saturday. They look like a team that could actually compete for an SEC title for the first time in a while.

Josh Heupel's elevation in such a short time of a historic football program is impressive. The Vols haven't seemed to be able to get over the hump the program was in for many years but it looks like they've found their guy. If Heupel continues his surge for the program they may have a case for the #1 coaching tandem in the conference.

Rick Barnes is likely what made Tennessee No. 3 on this list rather than No. 1 or No. 2. The Vols are coming off a season where they finished the regular season and SEC tourney looking like the hottest team in the nation, ultimately claiming the SEC tourney title. Right when the team had high hopes for the NCAA tournament, they fell short in the Round of 32 to a double digit seeded Michigan team, in which Rick Barnes tournament woes continued.

On the bright side, Rick Barnes has consistently built talented rosters that compete in the SEC and always have impressive tournament résumé's, the problem is falling short in said tournament which is ultimately the most important.

Tennessee's coaching duo is nothing but fantastic and is truly deserving of a top-three nod.

2. Nick Saban and Nate Oats, Alabama

Photo Credit: @EvilGregByrne/ Twitter

For many years a list like this one was unable to include Alabama and the legendary Nick Saban. The athletic department was so football heavy that including Alabama made no sense but that changed with the hiring of Nate Oats.

During the 2020-21 college season, Alabama likely had the top ranked athletic department in the country as they took home the College Football Playoff National Championship and appeared in their first Sweet-sixteen since the 2003-04 season.

We all know what Nick Saban does and what he has accomplished, while he carried most of the weight to earn the No. 2 ranking on this list, Nate Oats pitched in his fair share to earn them the spot.

Nate Oats has revived a basketball program that hadn't made a Sweet-Sixteen since I was born until the 2020-21 season. While expectations were probably too high on Alabama's most recent team that had just lost SEC Player of the Year Herb Jones, First team All-SEC John Petty, and Lottery pick Josh Primo, it was still a fairly successful season.

The Saban-Oats tandem was hard to keep out of the No. 1 spot, and with Saban looking to still be going strong and Oats just getting started, they might be No. 1 fairly soon.

1. Mark Stoops and John Calipari, Kentucky

Photo Credit: UK Athletics

At the very top of coaching duos in the Southeastern conference is Kentucky's Mark Stoops and John Calipari. Calipari-Stoops has been the staple of Kentucky athletics since Stoops was hired in 2012 so they are by far the most experienced coaching core on the list and for good reason.

John Calipari's résumé at Kentucky goes without notice: A national championship, four Final Four's, seven Elite Eights, 6x SEC Regular season and Conference tournament champion, and 365 games won in 13 seasons at Kentucky. He stands alone at the top when it comes to Basketball coaches in the conference and his accolades are a huge reason Kentucky is No. 1 on this list.

Mark Stoops inherited a historically bad Kentucky Football program and has five 7+ win seasons and two 10 win seasons in nine full years as the Head Coach. He has taken Kentucky to six straight bowl games where they have won four straight, which is something never done before in the program's history. Just a couple of weeks ago he became the program's all time winningest Head Coach surpassing the Legendary Bear Bryant for the title. His evolution of what was once a bottom feeder program is beyond impressive.

While Kentucky Basketball has steered from the dominant course they were on with a 9-16 season and a first round exit in the NCAA tourney, Calipari certainly has the roster to get back to his winning ways and will need to do so to help Kentucky keep this No. 1 spot. Same goes for Mark Stoops and the football team, dropping two straight and one against a rather weak South Carolina team at home isn't the way you want to be trending this season after once being the No. 7 ranked team in the country.

Mark Stoops may have already made his mark as the best coach in Kentucky Football history and Calipari has a chance to do the same in the line of Kentucky's historic Basketball history with a little more success, although passing Adolph Rupp won't be without challenge.

Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart did incredible work to hire these two to lead their programs.

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