Nobody will forget the “Year of the Cardinal”. Winning the national title in hoops and the Sugar Bowl in football is a feat that might not ever be duplicated. With that accomplishment in the books, it certainly helped the school rank 4th in CBSSports.com’s most successful football-basketball schools over the last 20 years.
The past 20 years have signaled a change in so many big ways for college sports. So I’m basing this study off of success in the most competitive and unpredictable environment amateur sports has been host to — while also dipping into the 1990s to include some statistical relevance from an era that’s still in the rear-view.
I looked at four categories for both college basketball and college football. The hoops criteria are: total win percentage, regular-season titles, NCAA Tournament appearances and Final Four appearances. For football, the first two are the same as hoops, and I included total bowl games and national championship-game appearances. While winning a title is tangible achievement, to widen the pool of candidates, I included all programs who made the ultimate stage in each sport. (And really, making a Final Four or a title game in football is symbolic enough of an epic season.)
I created demarcation lines in each category that fundamentally and logistically worked as a cut-off. I include the top 15 win percentages in each sport. Because there are more games involved, I lowered the number of regular-season division titles in college hoops to five, while going with six in football — because there are more shared titles among teams. With more and more bowl games, I decided if you made four in five seasons — going to 16 of 20 — that would signal top-tier status in that grouping. The same goes for NCAA Tournament appearances, which included 18 schools that have made 13 or more dances since 1995-96.
I also chose multiple categories instead of purely combining win percentage because big-time schools can schedule down and inflate records. By working in postseason success and regular-season titles, you get a clearer vision of which programs have achieved the most over a score of years.
Your Louisville Cardinals:
While Louisville can’t sweep the hoops category (it hasn’t won five or more regular-season titles in the past two decades), it’s the fourth and final school to get mention in both genres. The Cardinals, by nature of six division/conference titles in football, are in the club. And they barely squeak in by comparison to Florida.