Friday, June 28, 2013

Stanford Wins Director's Cup (Overall Athletic Performance) for 19th Straight Year

Stanford has won the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, the long-established marker of overall athletic-department performance, for the 19th straight year. Cardinal sports teams accumulated 1261.25 points, just slightly ahead of Florida's 1244.75. However, Stanford's score was limited more than Florida's by the fact that only a school's 20 best sports (10 men's and 10 women's) can count. The Cardinal had four potential point-scoring sports excluded, whereas the Gators only had one.

Stanford fields teams in 36 sports, far more than most schools, so the cap on the number of sports in which a  school can receive Directors' Cup points seems fair. Another aspect of the scoring, which seems to benefit Stanford, is that each sport is treated equally in terms of points. Cardinal squads tend to do well in sports such as golf, tennis, and water polo, and less so in "big ticket" sports such as football and men's basketball. Women's basketball, which arguably might be the third most-followed college sport in the U.S., is a perennial Cardinal strong suit.

(A competing award, the Capital One Cup, weights what appear to be the more popular sports more heavily than other sports, as well as having separate men's and women's prizes; this year's winners were UCLA in men's sports and North Carolina in women's. Stanford was No.2 in the Capital One women's standings and outside the Top 10 in the men's. The Capital One Cup is only in its third year.)        

Back to the Director's Cup, an NCAA team championship is worth 100 points, second-place worth 90, and so forth, regardless of sport. In sports that have a tournament, such as the women's basketball 64-team competition, all teams in the field receive some points. In other sports, such as track and field, where more than 64 schools appear at the national meet, points are awarded even further down the ladder. For example, Idaho State, which finished 77th in men's outdoor track, received 5 points.

As a Michigan alum (Ph.D., 1989), I was hoping that NCAA titles by the men's swimming and gymnastics teams, the national runner-up finish in men's basketball, and appearances in the women's volleyball Final Four and softball Women's College World Series might give Wolverine athletics a chance to end Stanford's long streak of Directors' Cup titles. However, Michigan finished fourth. UCLA was third.

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