As you most likely know, the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) awards an annual Director's Cup to the nation's top athletic program, based on a points formula that encompasses all men's and women's varsity sports (more info here). Stanford has won the award for the past 17 years in a row, but Michigan has been among the top performing schools in the annual standings, finishing in the top ten in 14 of the 18 years the rankings have been compiled.
Unfortunately, the past two seasons have been down years, with Michigan placing 25th (2009-2010) and 15th (2010-2011). With some resurgent programs this year, I have been hoping that our maize and blue heroes could return to their rightful place in the top ten. I decided to take a look at MIchigan's current status and forward-looking expectations.
In the last published update (3/22/12), Michigan fell from 5th place to 12th place in the standings. This Thursday, the updated Winter standings will be released, adding results for men's and women's basketball, men's swimming, and fencing. If my figurin' is correct, the updated standings should look something like this:
Michigan should climb barely back into the top ten, while Ohio State shoots up to the number two spot, based not only on basketball success, but also on winning the recent national fencing championships held in Columbus. Unfortunately, the NACDA points accumulated by the Buckeye sabre-rattlers will exceed the total points registered by the combined efforts of Michigan's men's and women's basketball teams plus Ice Hockey team. Curses! Foiled again. Yeah, the scoring system is a little flakey.
Looking ahead to the home stretch, some schools are traditionally stronger in spring sports and are likely to make a late move. If we were to project that each school's spring teams will match their performance from last year and tally up the resulting standings (allowing points for no more than 10 sports in either men's or women's categories), the projected final standings would turn out like this:
Of course, there is likely to be a great deal of variance in actual results, but this should pretty well identify who the top contenders are.
Michigan's spring prospects vary by team. Wolverine men and women gymnasts and tennis racketeers are likely to pile up some points, but it will be a challenge to just match the output of last year's successful teams. Struggling golf teams on both men's and women's side will be hard pressed to make the NCAA's this year (still, we can hope). The inaugural men's lacrosse team will not register any NACDA points this year, but it can only help to have a men's and women's varsity lacrosse program in years to come. Prospects also do not look very promising for the baseball team or either track and field team. Surprise us, please!
On the plus side, there is room for improvement over last year from the young and developing softball team, the women's rowing team, and the women's water polo team. Gals, we're counting on you!
It is all but certain that Stanford will repeat as the trophy winner for the 18th straight year. Ohio State, Florida, and California are likely to battle it out for the runner-up spot.
Michigan has a very realistic shot at returning to the top ten. We should almost certainly improve over the past two seasons. Sadly, there is very little chance of a top five finish this year or of overtaking that ohio school. Don't taze me bro', I'm just crunching numbers here. I personally have faith in Dave Brandon's determination to continue to elevate the competitive level of all of Michigan's varsity programs and I expect that we will once again become a consistent top finisher in the NACDA standings. Go Blue, one and all!