Deciding what is a “football school” or a “basketball school” is an inexact science. Long-standing tradition, not wins and losses, often determines whether most fans’ hearts belong to the gridiron or to the court. Culturally, Florida State did not cease to be a football school during its recent period of poor performance, nor did Michigan adopt the persona of a basketball school even as its men’s team made multiple Final Fours in the 2010s (and its football declined). . And Kentucky, where men’s basketball coach John Calipari recently made headlines for speaking the obvious, is no football school, despite the Wildcats’ impressive Saturday resurgence in recent years.
But at some point, excellence on the field or court supersedes culture, and that time is now. To find a definitive answer to what is a soccer school and what is a basketball school, we ranked the 65 current Power Five schools using a point system based on our Elo ratings in soccer, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball since 2001.1 Points for a given sport were assigned based on a team’s ranking in average Elo during a given year, with heavyweights attached to football and middleweights attached to men’s and women’s basketball.two A “soccer school” got at least half of its total points from soccer, while a “basketball school” got at least half of its points from basketball. In total, that gives us 36 soccer schools, or schools that got at least half of their points from soccer, and 29 basketball schools.
The top five gridiron points earners probably come as no surprise: Oklahoma, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama are among the most decorated and recognized brands in college sports. In men’s basketball, the top five are the traditional mainstays (Kansas, Duke, Kentucky, Michigan State, and North Carolina); Similarly, on the women’s side, current and former powerhouses Baylor, Stanford, Tennessee, Duke and Notre Dame have amassed the most points.3
However, some of these schools do well across the board. Ohio State, for example, claims the No. 1 spot overall for total points, thanks not only to its perennial national title contender in the horseshoe, but also its consistent runs on the court, including two Final Fours for its men’s team in 2007 and 2012. Notre Dame has also been very successful in both sports, making several appearances in the playoffs and in the New Year’s six bowls in football to accompany its giant squads in women’s basketball, which included the winners of a epic national championship in 2018, and a pretty consistent tournament. team on the men’s side. And it should be noted that, in perhaps the most surprising finding of this entire exercise, our system classifies the Irish as a “basketball school”: 53.6 percent of their total points came from the floor. (Sorry, Knute Rockne.)
Of course, not all schools take the same balanced approach. For a counterexample, you need look no further than Durham, North Carolina, where the Duke football team has ranked last in average football Elo four times and in the bottom 10 a total of 13 times since 2001. Meanwhile, the legendary Duke men’s basketball program has shouldered the burden with an average top-10 rating in all but one year, and the women’s program enjoyed its own unbroken streak of top-10 rankings from 2002 to 2015. And while Alabama basketball has made a comeback in recent years — the men’s team contributed to a memorable sporting equinox last fall, beating No. 3 Gonzaga as the football team won the SEC title game, while the women’s team made its first NCAA Tournament appearance in nearly two decades in 2021 – football has a reputation for bringing the bacon home to Tuscaloosa.
Here were the most lopsided schools according to our method, based on who had the largest absolute point difference between football and basketball:
|School||basketball points||soccer points||ABS. difference||type of school|
However, these labels are not static. Think Florida State: The Seminoles bounced back from their last Bobby Bowden years on the field with national success in the early 2010s to regain college football status. But a strong track record in men’s and women’s basketball since the mid-2010s has made FSU a basketball school again. Michigan, which maintained its strong football-first status in the twilight years of the Lloyd Carr era, has seen a nearly even split between basketball and football over the past 14 years, with basketball still accounting for nearly half of its points quota in 2021. when the soccer team finally started to fulfill its great promise. And Miami, once the crown jewel of college football, has gone back and forth from soccer to basketball since 2007.
Though neither of those shows would be considered “basketball schools” by their fans, the numbers indicate that their lesser-heralded squads have performed at a higher level than their football teams in recent decades. In other words, traditional labels can change faster than we think. So Calipari should probably watch his back: Even if Kentucky is unlikely to become a school of football by history and tradition any time soon, his recent success on the court could eventually lead to a shift in the balance of power. in Lexington.