In 2006, the University of Florida was undoubtedly the center of the college sports world. The Florida Gators became the first and only school to win national championships in both football and basketball in the same year, a feat that won’t be accomplished again any time soon.
A term like Titletown may not have done Gainesville justice, because Florida did more than win titles in the two largest sports. It developed world-class athletes and renown coaches.
The list of high-profile names on campus in 2006 alone is long: Urban Meyer, Billy Donovan, Dan Mullen, Charlie Strong, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Riley Cooper, Brandon Spikes, Reggie Nelson, Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford.
If not for Meyer and Donovan’s coaching and recruiting abilities, UF doesn’t nab that rare two-title distinction.
But as March Madness rolls around, I couldn’t help but wonder if and when lightning will strike twice at the same school again.
This year’s College Football Playoff winner, the Clemson Tigers, might not even make the NCAA Tournament and are a long shot to win it if they do. Cross them off the list.
If you look at the last five years, schools that finished inside the AP college football poll’s top-10 rankings participated in the NCAA Tournament that season 20 times. Here are the teams that made it past the Round of 32:
2018: Clemson (No. 4 in football, lost in Sweet 16)
2017: Wisconsin (No. 9 in football, lost in Sweet 16)
2015: Michigan State (No. 8 in football, lost in Final Four), Arizona (No.10 in football, lost in Elite Eight)
2014: Michigan State (No. 3 in football, lost in Elite Eight)
Notice there are zero SEC teams. The school that may have came the closest was Michigan State in 2014. The one-loss Spartans were passed over for one-loss Auburn, who lost to Florida State in the BCS National Championship Game just a year before the College Football Playoff system arrived. Their basketball team was also loaded that year but ran into eventual national champion Connecticut.
Realistically, the schools that may have a shot to pull off what Florida did in ‘06 are schools like Ohio State, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State and maybe a Kentucky, if it can build off its great football season last year.
Those teams are known to have strong programs both on the gridiron and the court, but the question remains: can they beat the best of the best in both sports? And can they do it in the same season?
Alabama and Clemson have a stronghold on the playoff, but their basketball programs aren’t anything special. Don’t count on them doing it.
Let’s say a team like Michigan beats Alabama in the playoff. Sweet. Now they have to worry about the basketball elites like Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Villanova and Gonzaga, who’ve won seven of the last 10 national championships.
It doesn’t help that winning the NCAA Tournament is incredibly difficult for any team, let alone one without an all-world talent like Zion Williamson.
Since Florida’s back-to-back titles, the highest an NCAA Tournament winner finished in football that year was seventh-ranked Kansas in 2008.
Considering how many years and how many seasons passed before Florida accomplished the feat, I don’t see it happening again. At least not any time soon.
Now, wouldn’t it be something if the Gators did it again?