The Top 25 Sports Schools in the Country (Sports, Tailgating and Co-eds)

Brad GoldbachCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2010

The Top 25 Sports Schools in the Country (Sports, Tailgating and Co-eds)

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    It is certainly something to be proud of when your school is the top drinking school in the country. The best academic schools in the country will get you big paychecks down the road, although you will probably need it to pay off your debts.

    But when it comes to college rankings, it's all about sports. They give you a reason to drink and give you something to forget about your work inside the classroom (if drinking didn't already do that). Most importantly, they give you bragging rights.

    We know who won the basketball and football national championships, but now it's time to see who owns the best overall sports program.

    More weight was given to the big sports (football and basketball) because they hold more meaning in arguments. Recent success was also weighed more.

    “My school won the women's water polo national championship!” you say in a pipsqueak voice. I don't even need to tell you what the guy from Alabama responded with. You get the point.

    With that being said, football and basketball are not always enough. You need the complete package to separate yourself from the pack. If all else fails, throw interesting or well-known traditions and tailgating into the mix.

    Co-eds were not factored into the rankings, but were provided for your viewing pleasure.

    Now, onto the rankings.

25. Ole Miss

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    This list mentions championships from sports up and down the spectrum. Ole Miss isn't exactly the nation's best school from a sports perspective.

    Their football team has been decent the past few seasons and they did give us Eli and Archie Manning, but normally that wouldn't be enough for this list.

    Still, I wouldn't feel right leaving them off this list.

    The reason? Tailgating.

    No school can lay claim to the Rebels' tailgating crown. Featuring Saturday in the Grove and some southern hospitality, this is enough to make up for the Rebels' shortcomings in other areas.

    Besides, this party wouldn't feel right without starting it off Ole Miss style.

24. Texas A & M

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    A few other teams probably deserve a spot on this list, but the Aggies will take this spot after the tailgating champions.

    The Aggies have a solid basketball program, with five straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including a trip to the Sweet 16.

    The football was pretty strong in the late-1990s, but they have struggled a little bit recently. The Aggies have made four bowl trips in the past five seasons, but have lost every single one.

    The reason I give the edge to the Aggies is their recent success in track & field. The Aggies took home the past two men's and women's outdoor national championships.

    The Aggies also did well in the indoor championships this season (men's second and women's fifth). It's enough to get them on this list.

23. West Virginia

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    The Mountaineers don't really play a lot of sports, but they succeed in the two most important ones from a fan's perspective.

    West Virginia took advantage of its Big East status under Rich Rodriguez to become one of the nation's best football programs recently. It hasn't quite lived up to those days since he left, but it is still very competitive.

    On the flip side, the basketball program has found great recent success despite its Big East status.

    Yeah, it works both ways: worst in football, best in basketball. Bob Huggins directed this squad to last year's Final Four, and they should be a mainstay as long as he's around.

    When you're on the national radar in both of those sports, it's probably enough to make this list.

22. Nebraska

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    On a list that weighs football so heavily, it would be wrong to leave Nebraska off.

    The Huskers have won five national championships and absolutely dominated the mid-1990s under Tom Osborne.

    The school really has no basketball program to speak of, so we will have to dig a little bit to find merits worth of Cornhusker consideration.

    Both gymnastics teams had top-10 finishes last season, the women's volleyball team is always strong (fifth last year), and since we are grasping for straws out here in Cornhusker country, their women's bowling team finished second.

    So, uh, yeah, at least Ndamukong Suh and Bo Pelini have put Nebraska back on the map.

21. Arizona

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    The Wildcats make this list for their great run during the Lute Olson era, which included five Final Fours and a national championship. The program is on the downside these days, but has built enough history to garner a spot.

    The Wildcats have strong swimming (top-five finishes in men's and women's last season) and golf (fifth in women's) programs.

    The football team made bowl appearances in 2008 and 2009, but you have to go to the diamond for Arizona's spot on this list.

    The softball team has won eight national championships and gave us Jennie Finch. That's enough for me.

20. Arizona State

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    The Sun Devils do not excel at college's two biggest sports, but they are good enough to compete.

    ASU made six bowl games last decade, and made the NCAA Tournament 13 times, the last appearance in 2009.

    The baseball team is what makes Arizona State tick, though.

    With 21 College World Series appearances, including four in the past six seasons and five national championships, the Sun Devils make it count on the diamond. The softball team isn't too shabby either, with a national championship in 2008.

    The Sun Devils also had top-five finishes in women's golf and men's track and field last season, for good measure.

    Have I mentioned the Sun Devils also have some nice co-eds? The state of Arizona deserves some credit in that area, both for the Wildcats and Sun Devils.

19. Kentucky

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    The Wildcats have perhaps the most storied program in college hoops, so they deserve a place on this list.

    From Adolph Rupp to Rick Pitino to John Calipari, the Cats are never far from the top of the college basketball world. Their women's program also made the Elite Eight last season.

    That is enough to get Kentucky on this list, but we have to give credit to Rich Brooks for turning the football program into a perennial bowl team.

    And, of course, Kentucky is also known for Ashley Judd.

18. Notre Dame

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    The Irish have football tradition on their side, but the present hasn't looked so kindly upon Notre Dame's program, at least compared to their unrealistically high expectations.

    The basketball team has always been decent, but nothing great. Such is life in the ultra-competitive Big East, though.

    But the rest of the sports are pretty solid: a runner-up for men's lacrosse and third place finishes for women's soccer, women's tennis, and fencing.

17. Michigan

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    The football and basketball programs are currently down, but the Wolverines have some history to help them out here.

    The football team has the most wins all-time and had a national championship as recently as 1998.

    The basketball team also sports a championship from 1989, led by Glen Rice. The Wolverines may be even better known for the Fab Five squads that followed the championship.

    A consistently strong softball team that made the 2009 Women's College World Series and last year's men's gymnastics national championship give the Wolverines some leeway in the present.

16. Wisconsin

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    The Badgers have top-tier football and basketball programs. Although neither has been in the running for a national championship, both programs are highly respected in their sports.

    We don't really get a chance to talk about hockey in this slideshow, so Wisconsin will also carry the torch in that department, with a second place finish last year.

    Not too shabby to be good on three terrains: ice, grass, and hardwood.

    The Badgers' tailgating is also highly regarded.

    Known for brats, beer and the fifth quarter, the fans sure know how to celebrate.

15. Alabama

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    Football is king in college sports, and Alabama deserves a spot on this list for that alone. Nick Saban has turned the Tide into one of college's most dominant programs since he arrived, and it doesn't look like they will be letting up anytime soon.

    But, the Tide had to do something else to make this list because the basketball team isn't the greatest in the world.

    Luckily, the baseball team and softball teams are pretty solid. Both just missed out on making it to their respective World Series, and the softball Tide were ranked first before being upset in the Super Regionals.

    The women's gymnastics and golfing teams also came in third last year. Seems like enough weight to help the football team out.

14. USC

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    Reggie Bush scandal be damned, USC gets votes in this poll. Admittedly, the lingering doubts may have dropped them a bit, but this seems like a good place for them anyway.

    The men's basketball team was decent before yet another scandal tore the Trojans program apart.

    Yeah, sorry USC fans, this is getting a little depressing. So, how about a men's and women's water polo and a men's tennis national championship to make you feel better?

    I know she will.

13. Georgia

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    It's been a while since the Bulldogs have won a football championship, but they have one, so that's good enough for me.

    So was Herschel Walker.

    They also won the preseason poll championship in 2008. Oh, that doesn't count? I was starting to think it did. Oh well, when all else fails give credit to tailgating where it is due. Georgia is consistently a top-ten finisher in that department.

    The basketball team does kinda suck, but it managed to win the SEC Tournament a few years back to make an NCAA appearance, so we'll let it slide.

    The softball team has become a recent fixture in the Women's College World Series. The baseball team made a championship appearance in 2008. Yeah, that was the year Fresno State sold its soul to the devil to win it all.

    When all else fails, go to the judges. Georgia's women's gymnastics team took home five straight national championships prior to 2010. I don't care what sport it is, that's pretty impressive.

12. Tennessee

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    The Vols gave us Peyton Manning, although Tee Martin gave the Vols a national championship. The Vols have fallen on hard times recently, but it wasn't too long ago that they were a competitor.

    Bruce Pearl has the basketball team on the verge of breaking into the Final Four. Last year's squad, which seemed left for dead after half the team got kicked off, was the closest one yet.

    A semifinals appearance by the softball team and top-five finishes for the tennis teams certainly don't hurt, but there is perhaps one name that helps Tennessee get this high: Pat Summit.

    The Vols also are considered one of the best teams to tailgate for.

11. Duke

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    Duke's football team was almost enough to keep them off this list. They have over 250 consecutive AP polls without the Dukies. Luckily, David Cutcliffe won nine games the last two seasons, so we could almost take them half-seriously.

    Of course, the men's basketball team more than makes up for that. Last year's national championship. Coach K. All those guys you love to hate. The Cameron Crazies. There's enough there to warrant a spot for Duke.

    But, because this is an all-around beauty contest, we have to throw the little guys in there.

    Men's lacrosse finally took home that elusive lacrosse championship and put to rest the aftermath of the rape scandal.

    The women's basketball team isn't like it's big brother, but it made an Elite Eight appearance.

10. Stanford

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    It's really hard to place a school like Stanford.

    On the one hand, the Cardinal always win the Director's Cup, which is awarded for the best overall sports program. On the other hand, the Cardinal play every sport known to man, which isn't the case for most other schools in the country. But give credit where credit is due.

    As for the big sports, Stanford can hold its own.

    The basketball team is pretty solid. You have the Mike Montgomery years and a Final Four appearance to the recent comedy duo known as the Lopez brothers.

    Really, you should probably thank Jim Harbaugh for Stanford being here. If he and Toby Gerhart didn't put Stanford on the map, the Director's Cup would be meaningless. With Andrew Luck under center, the team should be solid once again.

9. Penn State

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    To switch things up, let's start with something other than football.

    How about women's volleyball? Normally, this would be a joke. But a team that has won over 100 consecutive matches and three straight national championships is no joke.

    OK, now that you have humored me, let's get to the good stuff.

    Football. Joe Paterno. The White Out.

    Yeah, Penn State's football program alone could probably carry it into the upper half of this list. It may not have the most championships, but longevity and the fact that Paterno's still breathing have to count for something. That, and a great reputation for tailgating give the football program the complete package.

    If you don't like it, then watch your back. I hear the Nittany Lions also won a national championship in fencing.

    Oh, and the men's volleyball team came in second, but who's counting?

8. Oklahoma

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    When you think of Oklahoma, you think of Bob Stoops and the football program. Who would blame you? Names like Sam Bradford, Gerald McCoy and Adrian Peterson are a pretty good start there.

    The Sooners also have a decent basketball program, and gave you last year's top pick, Blake Griffin.

    If Blake's not doing it for you, then how about back-to-back Final Four appearances for the women's team?

    To round out the list, the Sooners had top-three finishes for both gymnastics teams and a trip to the College World Series for baseball.

7. Florida State

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    The Seminoles said goodbye to Bobby Bowden, who is the biggest reason the Noles are ranked this high.

    Sure, he slacked off recently, but you cannot argue with the run of success he had in the 90s.

    The Florida State basketball program isn't too shabby either.

    The Noles gave you everyone's favorite alien lookalike, Sam Cassell, and are a fixture in the NCAA Tournament these days.

    Now, if only Florida State could take home that elusive baseball championship, the Noles could probably crack the top five. Still, they have made 20 College World Series appearances, including this season, so that has to count for something.

    To wrap things up, the women's basketball team had an Elite Eight appearance and top-five finishes for men's golf, women's volleyball, women's cross country and women's soccer. The track team gave you bronze medalist Walter Dix.

    If all those meaningless sports didn't do it for you, then how about the Seminole spear? That's pretty cool, huh?

    And, I'm sure all you guys know about the FSU Cowgirls.

6. LSU

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    The Tigers do not get points for playing a lot of sports well, but they do well where it counts.

    The football team has two recent national championships, one under Nick Saban and one under Les Miles.

    The basketball team isn't the greatest right now, but the Tigers made a Final Four appearance in 2006, upsetting favorite Duke along the way.

    And, the Tigers get major props for having one of the nation's best baseball programs. With six national championships, including one in 2009, the baseball program vaults LSU way up this list. LSU's baseball success is what separated the Tigers from the Noles on this list.

    The Bayou Bengals also get some credit for their tailgating prowess. Everyone raves about the food and the atmosphere at Death Valley. People also rave about the LSU baseball stadium, which is said to look like an MLB stadium.

5. North Carolina

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    Yes, the basketball team had a disappointing season last year.

    But if you question the Tar Heels on the merits of their basketball program, then you are a bigger fool than I am for trying to tackle this list.

    The football team is on the verge under Butch Davis, who turned Miami into a powerhouse.

    If that's not enough for you, then how about women's soccer. UNC took home the championship this year and has won 20 of the 28 national titles. Yeah, you can probably thank Mia Hamm for that one.

    That was enough for me, but just for argument's sake the Tar Heels have top-five programs in men's and women's lacrosse to go along with last year's women's field hockey championship.

    OK, that was probably enough for you too.

4. Ohio State

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    The Buckeyes certainly have the football tradition on their side, and head into 2010 ranked No. 2 in the polls.

    The basketball program is also top-notch, making an NCAA Championship appearance in 2007. The Buckeyes have churned out products like Greg Oden and Evan Turner.

    Ohio State is generally pretty solid across the board, as evidenced by its usual place among the top-10 in the Director's Cup standings.

    Bonus points for the Horseshoe and the band dotting the “I” at football games.

3. Texas

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    Most people know Texas for its football, especially high school. Think Friday Night Lights. But the Longhorns are well represented in other sports too.

    The baseball team had a little bit of a disappointing season, but it was ranked first before missing out on the College World Series. But 33 College World Series appearances and six national championships more than make up for that.

    The basketball program is always strong, and made the tournament once again. The Longhorns made the Elite Eight in 2006 and 2008 to go along with a 2003 Final Four appearance. And, they gave us Kevin Durant.

    The women's volleyball team lost in the championship match.

    Of course, you always have football. Texas is always near the top and finished second last season. You have names like Colt McCoy, Vince Young and the entire state's high school football program to back that up.


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    You know about the Bruins' basketball program's rich history under John Wooden.

    Three straight recent Final Four appearances isn't too shabby either.

    UCLA took home the softball championship and finished second in baseball. What UCLA is to men's basketball is what UCLA is to softball, with 11 championships under its belt.

    The Bruins also took home the women's gymnastics championship.

    Their football program is on the rise, but it's not quite there yet. If UCLA can knock down the Pac-10 door, it will probably land atop this list.

1. Florida

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    The Gators finished second in the Director's Cup. The Cup counts the best 10 men's and women's sports. Florida only has eight female sports. Not too bad, and Florida succeeds where it counts.

    You know about Florida's stellar football program – three 13-1 seasons and two championships in the past four seasons.

    The basketball program has struggled a bit, but it brought home back-to-back titles a few years ago.

    And, this year the Gators won national championships in women's swimming and men's indoor track and field.

    The Gators' softball and baseball teams also went to the Women's College World Series and College World Series, respectively.

    Oh, and the Swamp is not a bad place to be on Saturdays.