Williams College has always been known to have a strong athletic department, but only in the last four years has the department been afforded the opportunity to gain national recognition.
This national recognition has mainly come in the form of the Sears Directors’ Cup, an award sponsored by Sears and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA).
Since the inaugural year for Division III schools in 1995-96, Williams has won the Cup three of four possible times, falling short only in the 1997-98 season.
The scoring structure of the Cup has been designed to reward institutions for having “broad-based programs, achieving success in many sports, both men’s and women’s.”
This design caters well to Williams’s athletic program, as the college boasts success in almost all varsity and club sports.
“I’m pleased that Williams has won the Cup,” Athletic Director Robert Peck said. “It just goes to show the diversity of the programs here. Unlike some other NESCAC [New England Small College Athletic Conference] schools, we don’t emphasize just a couple of sports; we have a broad, deep program here.”
To earn points towards the Cup, a team must participate in a post-season tournament sponsored by the NCAA.
Thus, not every team at Williams can contribute to the Cup, as some teams do not play in the post-season.
After a tournament is completed, different point values are awarded to a college based on a team’s final standing and the size of the tournament field.
At the end of an academic year, all of a team’s tournament results are tallied, and the Cup winner is determined for each Division.
The Cup winner is awarded with an impressive $35,000 Waterford Crystal trophy. Also, Sears awards postgraduate scholarships to two seniors working in support of the athletic program.
These students can be broadcasters, student trainers or writers for the sports information department.
In addition to those two scholarships, an additional $1000 scholarship is awarded to a member of the athletics support staff for every national championship won by the school.
Williams is the only Division III school to finish in the top five for all years of Sears Cup participation.
Again, this continued success is attributed to the breadth of strong and deep athletic programs. For example, last year 28 of 31 Williams
teams finished with winning records.
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Athletics at Williams have always been strong, but the growing consensus is that they have steadily grown stronger through the years and are continuing to rise to new levels.
“It is amazing how well Williams can do nationally,” said Dick Quinn, Assistant Director of Public Affairs. “When I came here in 1989, I knew that Williams had a strong athletic program, but I never expected how nationally recognized the program could be.”
Quinn believes that the increasing success of the program is partly due to the new athletic facilities built over the years and the growing quality of incoming classes of first-years.
Williams has achieved its three Cups while playing in NESCAC, arguably the strongest Division III conference nationally. But beginning in a couple of years, a new conference rule will take effect that limits the number of NESCAC schools eligible for post-season play. Only the NESCAC team champion from each sport will be taken into the post-season, whereas now, usually many NESCAC teams qualify in every sport.
“When NESCAC goes to one team only in the NCAAs, it will be extremely hard for any NESCAC team to win the Sears Cup,” Peck said.