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Success lifts Buckeyes, Gators into dream state

When you're in charge of nearly $100 million worth of college athletics and 36 varsity teams, the time to savor your accomplishments can be fleeting.

When Ohio State AD Gene Smith needs to feel the joy of the job, he goes to watch his teams play.

"I enjoy competition; that's where I came from," said Smith, a former defensive end at Notre Dame. "When I'm at a game, that's my time to reflect on the joys of where we are."

Tuesday night, Smith went to see his men's basketball team play Iowa State. He watched the most talented teenage player on the planet, freshman center Greg Oden, rack up 18 points and nine rebounds. And at halftime he watched the football team's quarterback, Troy Smith, hold up the Heisman Trophy to deafening applause.

Gene Smith laughed.

"Sometimes these days I have to pinch myself."

Florida AD Jeremy Foley, custodian of a $70 million program and 478 athletes, knows the exact same feeling.

"Every once in a while you have to pinch yourself," Foley said.

There's a whole lot of pinchin' going on in Columbus, Ohio, and Gainesville, Fla., these days. Even for accomplished ADs accustomed to rampant success, the current level of bliss feels like a dream state.

All of a sudden, their programs rule the two glamour sports in college athletics.

The Buckeyes, bullies of the Big Ten, are ranked No. 1 in football and No. 3 in men's basketball. Combined record this academic year in the two sports: 21-1.

The Gators, kingpins of the Southeastern Conference, are the defending national champions in men's basketball and are currently ranked No. 5 in the sport. They're No. 2 in football. Combined record this academic year: 21-3.

For the record, no school has ever won the football and men's basketball national titles in the same academic year. Not only do both the Buckeyes and Gators have a shot at that, they'll have to do it against each other. Right now they're on the verge of one of the more intriguing mini-rivalries in college athletic history.


The basketball teams square off Saturday in Gainesville -- Oden head-to-head with the guy who owned the '06 NCAA Tournament, Joakim Noah. Sixteen days later, the football teams play in the BCS National Championship Game in Glendale, Ariz.

"We'll shake each other's hand," Foley said, "then try to beat 'em twice."

Actually, there could be a third meeting three months down the road. It's entirely possible the two hoops teams meet again in Atlanta in the Final Four.

Smith and Foley have two things in common: scads of homegrown talent to recruit from a populous state, and great coaches in the marquee sports.

If Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta isn't the best recruiter in America, then Florida coach Billy Donovan is. In the Pete Carroll runner-up derby for best football coach in the country, take your pick between Ohio State's Jim Tressel (55-8 the last five years, including one national title) or Florida's Urban Meyer (52-9 the last five years, at three different schools).

But even with the talent, coaching acumen and big bucks budget, this kind of success still doesn't happen every day. Since the wire services began awarding football national championships in 1936 and the NCAA basketball tournament began in 1939, only seven schools have won at least one title in each sport: Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, UCLA (split football title in 1954), Ohio State, Syracuse and Florida.

Ohio State has one football national title in the last 37 years (2002). Florida has one ever (1996).

Ohio State won its single men's basketball title in 1960. Florida's title last year was its first in the sport.

So the chance to win 'em both within a year's time is fairly dazzling.

"The last two weeks have been so crazy that there hasn't been much time to enjoy it," Foley said. "But you catch yourself once in a while, saying, 'We're playing for it [the football championship].' Last spring I'd be driving around and it would suddenly hit you, 'Wow, we're national champs in basketball.'"

Said Smith: "It's not easy to come by. That's why all of Buckeye Nation is extremely giddy."

For now, no schools are as giddy as Ohio State and Florida -- but that's just a snapshot view. Compiling computer data over the past five years for both football and basketball gives a wider-angle picture of who's built for dual-sport success. Using that data, these are your top 10 two-sport schools:

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.