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Indiana firing Tom Crean would be almost completely unprecedented in college hoops

How rare would it be to fire a coach just one year removed from a conference championship? We did some research.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Indiana Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Okay, first, stop. This isn’t commentary one way or the other on Tom Crean’s future at Indiana. It’s an issue that’s been well-litigated amongst Indiana fans for months, and one that will likely be resolved one way or another shortly after Indiana’s 2017 season ends.

Still, with speculation flying about his future at Indiana, we wondered: Just how rare would it be for a major college program to part with a coach not mired in scandal just one year removed from an outright conference championship?

The answer: It’s basically never happened.

Since the inception of the NCAA Tournament in 1939, no Big Ten program has fired or asked for the resignation of a basketball coach a year or less removed from an outright conference championship.

Even those mired in recruiting scandals, like Clem Haskins at Minnesota (won title in 1997, fired in 1999) got two years following his outright conference title. A few coaches have been poached away by other schools, but none were in so-called “safety net” situations where Crean might be in at Indiana -- all were true upgrades, from the looks of our research here at CQ.

That fact holds true in other conferences, too.


Since the inception of the NCAA Tournament, it’s never happened in the SEC either, though the conference has seen its share of scandal-mired exit. Eddie Sutton and Norm Sloan were both forced out at Kentucky and Florida within a year of outright SEC titles 1989 — but both schools were mired in NCAA scandal at the time, with Kentucky eventually vacating the 1988 conference crown. No other coaches have departed their programs within a year of winning a conference title outright, however. Thank Adolph Rupp for most of that, probably.


Out west, UCLA’s actually pulled the plug on two coaches in recent memory the same year they won a conference title, but both had at least a whiff of an NCAA investigation. Jim Harrick was dismissed in Westwood in 1996 after lying to administrators about a recruiting scandal. Ben Howland’s firing in 2013 might be most similar to a Crean departure at Indiana, but the NCAA was investigating the coach’s recruitment of Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson during Howland’s final year in Westwood. Tom Crean’s seen nothing of that sort in Bloomington.


It’s never happened in the history of the Big 12, mostly because Kansas hasn’t fired Bill Self! (Though the Big 12 isn’t as old as these other Power 5 conferences.)


NC State’s the only school that’s seen a coach depart just after an outright conference championship. Press Maravich left the school for the LSU job in the mid-60s after winning a title and Jim Valvano departed in 1990 amidst NCAA scandal after his 1989 title.