May 31, 2013
STANFORD, Calif. - Last week, the Stanford women’s tennis team won its 17th NCAA championship, the 104th overall in school history. It extended a streak of 37 consecutive years in which Stanford has captured at least one NCAA title, and also lifted the Cardinal program into first place in its bid to win a 19th straight Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup trophy.
But this competition promises to be the closest in years.
What exactly is the Directors' Cup? It’s a year-long competition under the auspices of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Schools receive points in 20 NCAA-sponsored championships – the 10 highest scoring men’s and 10 highest scoring women’s. Although Stanford has 36 varsity sports, not all count – synchronized swimming, sailing, squash, men’s and lightweight rowing – because the NCAA does sponsor national championships in those sports.
Points are based on a team’s finish in NCAA competition. In sports that have brackets (basketball, volleyball), points are awarded for each round of competition in which the team advances. For example, 25 points for qualifying for the first round, 50 points for the second, 64 for the Sweet 16, 73 for the Elite Eight, 83 for the Final Four, 90 for second place, and 100 for winning the national title.
In non-bracket sports (track and field, swimming), teams are awarded points for their actual finish, with 100 going to the winner. In football, teams finishing ranked 1-through-25 in the final USA Today Poll receive 100-to-49 points, respectively. If they are unranked and win a bowl game, they receive 45 points, and if they are unranked and lose a bowl game they receive 25 points.
The first Directors’ Cup trophy was awarded to the University of North Carolina in 1993-94, with the Tar Heels edging Stanford by 21.5 points. Since then, the Cardinal has been dominant, winning 18 times in a row by an average of more than 200 points. The narrowest margin of victory was in 1994-95, when Stanford beat UNC by 97.5 points.
“It’s a rallying point the whole department can get behind,” said Earl Koberlein, senior associate athletic director. “I’ve had numerous student-athletes come to me and say, ‘I helped win the Directors’ Cup.’ The coaches can use it as a motivating factor. It’s all little things that add up.”
The current leaders are Stanford (1,233 points), Michigan (1,003.25), Penn State (1,001.25), North Carolina (991), and Florida (983.5). However, this year’s competition apparently will go down to the wire between Stanford and Florida. Michigan was the early leader, but was surpassed in the latest standings.
Based on Koberlein’s unofficial projections, if the seeds hold true in the remaining spring sports, the Cardinal will win by about five points. However, Florida still has postseason teams playing in softball, baseball, and track and field, and the Gator men’s team ranks No. 1 in the latter. Stanford has two teams still competing – the 10th-ranked women’s crew team, and men’s and women’s track and field.
“Last week’s tennis win was huge,” said Koberlein, noting that the 12th-ranked Cardinal defeated top-ranked Florida in the semifinals. “I think we're going to pull it out, but even if we don’t happen to win and come in second, 18 straight has been an incredible accomplishment. If Florida happens to edge us out, give them credit for a great year.”
The next standings update will come June 14, after men's golf, women's rowing, softball, and track and field. Stanford's athletic year will be complete. The final standings will be released June 27 or 28, after baseball's College World Series.
It’s also worth mentioning that Stanford’s women’s program scored in 14 sports this year, but only was able to count 10 towards the Directors’ Cup. It demonstrates the depth and talent of the university’s more than 850 dedicated student-athletes.
-- By Mark Soltau, Stanford Athletics
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Palo Alto native Mark Soltau has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the sport's beat writer for the Examiner, national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, contributing editor to Golf Digest, and since 1997 has been the editor of tigerwoods.com.