What does winning the Directors’ Cup mean?

Karan Amin

 On Jan. 21, the College was awarded its 22nd Directors’ Cup, an annual honor given to the college or university with the most overall athletic success in each athletic division. The College has now won the award 22 times in the last 24 years, beating out every other Div. III college and university and extending its win streak to seven. The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays finished a close second, as the Ephs’ margin of victory was just 33.25 points out of 1117.0 total points scored.

“It’s a recognition of the work we do,” Athletic Director Lisa Melendy said. “It’s a recognition that we have students and coaches working together, striving for excellence and that we are privileged. We sit in a place where we can sponsor 32 sports, where we have good facilities and where we have full-time coaches.”

The Directors’ Cup originated in 1993 and was initially presented to only NCAA Div. I schools. In 1995, the competition was expanded to include Div. II, Div. III and NAIA schools, with each division accepting its own award. Stanford has been the College’s equivalent on the Div. I front, as theyhave won the competition for each of the last 25 years.

In order to rank schools on their athletic success, points are awarded based on a school’s finish in NCAA tournaments or other national championship competitions. A first-place finish earns 100 points, second place earns 90 points, third place earns 85 points and fewer points are awarded for lower finishes. 

The scoring structure for NCAA Div. III schools mandates that a school must count the number of points earned in four particular sports: men’s and women’s soccer and men’s and women’s basketball. Each of these teams must make the NCAA Tournament in order to avoid being credited with zero points for their respective seasons. These four sports are counted first in the NCAA Div. III scoring structure because they are the four most commonly sponsored sports in the division. After accounting for the point totals in these four sports, each school chooses to count the points of their 14 highest point winners, regardless of the gender breakdown.

Over the course of the 2018-2019 year, the Ephs were consistent in their athletic success, scoring in 17 out of a possible 18 sports and clinching top-ten finishes in 12. Among those top-ten finishes were the Women’s Swimming & Diving’s fourth-place finish, Men’s Basketball’s fifth-place finish and Women’s Soccer’s first-place finish for taking the NCAA title. This earned the Ephs 100 points in the Directors’ Cup race.

Melendy praised the widespread success of the College’s athletic teams. “What’s fun about [the Directors’ Cup] is that it’s always different teams,” she said. “Last year, some teams that have traditionally scored a lot of points for us didn’t even go to the NCAAs. And we had new teams like Men’s Lacrosse, who had the deepest run they ever had, and Women’s Track [and Field] winning the National Championship without an indoor track facility. It’s not always the same sports [winning]. So it really feels like a team [effort] within the department.”

After a close defeat last year, the Blue Jays have bounced back and are currently at the top of the race for the 2019-2020 Directors’ Cup. The Ephs find themselves in tenth place behind NESCAC rivals Tufts and Middlebury, which rank second and sixth, respectively. Historically, this is not unfamiliar territory, as the Ephs were in seventh place after the 2018-2019 fall season before going on to attain the Directors’ Cup after an extremely successful spring season. While the Ephs look to be more dominant during the current winter season and upcoming spring season, multiple teams had strong fall seasons, with both men’s and women’s XC finishing third in the nation and women’s soccer finishing fifth. 

Winning the Directors’ Cup is not a priority for the athletic department, Melendy said. Rather, the department places importance on developing the best athletic programs. “We focus on the process, frankly,” she said. “We never discuss trying to win the Directors’ Cup. We will be fine if we lose it. We focus on creating good student-athlete experiences and working hard together.  It’s nice to get this cherry on the sundae at the end.”