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April 9, 2008

Some succeed in both basketball, football

There was a time when college athletic programs were divided into two distinct groups. Football schools were on one side of the line, basketball schools were on the other.

Times obviously are changing.

That line still exists to some extent, but it appears to be fading fast. Kansas' national basketball title marked the fourth consecutive year that the school that won the basketball championship also won its bowl game.

In fact, over the past 10 years, a dozen schools have appeared in both a BCS game and a Final Four.

A powerful basketball program may even boost football recruiting. Football recruits making official visits in December and January often are taken to basketball games, where they can get a taste of atmosphere.

"The visibility that success brings, whatever the sport, is always positive for other sports in an athletic program," said Texas coach Mack Brown, who previously had great success at North Carolina, a traditional basketball school. "When we were at North Carolina, Coach (Dean) Smith and the basketball coaches there were always helpful to us.

"We try to do the same here. Anytime a coach of another sport asks me to talk to a recruit, I'm happy to do it. Television opens a window to the world for a university, and kids like to see winners. We've got a really healthy environment right now at Texas in that all of our coaches get along and our athletes support each other. When you see kids having fun playing the game, and fans having fun watching it, that's a good thing. And recruits notice that most of all."

Apparently, they've noticed more in recent years. In 2005, Oklahoma was the only school that signed a top-10 football recruiting class in February and whose basketball program appeared in the NCAA Tournament in March.

In 2006, Florida, Texas, LSU and Oklahoma were ranked among the top 10 in recruiting and also participated in March Madness.

And in the past two years, five schools have ranked among the nation's top 10 in football recruiting and also appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

Coincidence? Probably.

The five programs that had the football recruiting/NCAA tourney double in 2007 were Florida, USC, Tennessee, Texas and Notre Dame, which figure to recruit well no matter how their basketball program does.

And a struggling basketball program won't hamper a football recruiting class. Alabama's football recruiting class ranked No. 1 in 2008, but its basketball program finished 17-16.

By the same token, Auburn football had top-10 recruiting classes in 2006 and '07 but hasn't been in the NCAA tournament field since 2003. Thus, that would raise the question of whether a good basketball program really does help a football program.

"I don't think it hurts," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "I don't think it's a necessity. Most programs survive themselves. Look at Duke, for instance. Duke has struggled in football, but has a great basketball program. There are a lot of teams in the ACC like that.

"You seldom see a dominating force in both. Florida is different from that, but it has some advantages over others with the type of talent they have a chance to recruit. I think if you can win in both of them that, no doubt, they do help each other."

Still, Pittsburgh football coach Dave Wannstedt says there is no question basketball gives football a boost. Since arriving at Pitt four years ago, Wannstedt's recruiting classes consistently have ranked among the nation's top 30. At the same time, Pitt's basketball program has made seven consecutive NCAA appearances, including four trips to the Sweet 16.

"I'm always looking for the recruiting angle," Wannstedt said. "Any time a recruit in Ohio hears about Pittsburgh whether it's basketball or the Steelers or the Penguins it's good for our football program.

"When I bring recruits in and go to a basketball game and there's a sellout and a lot of energy in the house, it's good for our program. When the Steelers are on Monday Night Football and they show the city and the three rivers, it's good for our program. That's how I approach it. A lot of coaches go the other way 'to protect their program' or that crap, but that's how I look at it."

Trivia question

Name the 12 programs that within the past 10 seasons (since '98 for football and '99 for basketball) have appeared in both a BCS game and a Final Four.(Answer at the end of the column.)

Quick hitters

  • Florida receiver Percy Harvin had surgery on his right heel Monday in Charlotte, N.C. Harvin, a junior who has rushed for 1,192 yards and caught 93 passes for 1,285 yards in his career, is expected to be fully recovered by August.

  • Virginia redshirt freshman linebacker J'Courtney Williams, a former four-star prospect, was dismissed from the team after being charged with credit card theft and fraud.

  • Iowa State coach Gene Chizik acknowledged the quarterback duel between sophomores Austen Arnaud and Phillip Bates likely won't be settled during spring practice. He also said it doesn't need to be. Chizik said he is not opposed to using a two quarterback system.

  • New Nebraska coach Bo Pelini turned down an invitation to visit the White House as part of LSU's 2007 national championship team. Pelini, who was LSU's defensive coordinator last season, chose instead to attend practice, where the Huskers were working on reinstalling the option as part of their offense.

  • Tailback James Montgomery reportedly is transferring from California to Washington State. Montgomery, who is from the Sacramento, Calif., area, was expected to be the Bears' starting tailback this season but said he didn't feel comfortable in Berkeley. He will have to sit out the 2008 season.

  • Alabama third-string tailback Roy Upchurch appears to have raised his profile after playing well in a scrimmage last weekend. Upchurch ran for touchdowns on 16 and 46 yards in the scrimmage.

  • The NCAA granted a sixth year of eligibility to Auburn defensive tackle Tez Doolittle. He missed last season with a leg injury. He had nine tackles, with 1.5 tackles for loss, in 2006.

  • Defensive end Jeremy Jarmon has returned to Kentucky's spring practice after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee. Jarmon posted a team-high nine sacks last season. Meanwhile, Wildcats defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin had surgery to remove bone spurs from his right hip.

    Trivia answer

    In alphabetical order, the 12 programs that within the past 10 seasons have appeared in both a BCS game and a Final Four are Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Louisville, LSU, Maryland, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Syracuse, Texas, UCLA and Wisconsin.

    MORE: BCS Spring Breakdowns | Practice previews for every team | More college football

    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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