Bear athletics make strides toward winning Learfield Directors’ Cup

Anna Schoenfeld | Staff Reporter

After successful finishes across several sports this academic year, including two national championships, Washington University is in position to win one of the most coveted awards in Division III athletics: the Learfield Directors’ Cup.

The award is given annually by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to the most widely successful athletic program. Entering the spring season, Wash. U. was first in Division III standings with 837.00 points, ahead of Williams College, with 705.25 points.

Mariana Alisio strikes the ball in the Bears NCAA tournament game aganist Luther. The Bears won 3-0, and ended the season as national champions.

Mariana Alisio strikes the ball in the Bears NCAA tournament game aganist Luther. The Bears won 3-0, and ended the season as national champions.

In the scoring system for the Directors’ Cup, schools are awarded points for top nine finishes in men’s and women’s sports. The further a team advances into the playoffs, the more points the program is awarded, with 100 points for national championships.

Wash. U. started the year off with an extremely successful fall; when the women’s soccer’s national championship earned 100 points. Women’s volleyball made it to the national championship, and women’s and men’s cross country placed second and fourth in the country respectively, propelling Wash. U. into first with 410.00 points.

The winter was highlighted by women’s indoor track and field’s national championship, but included strong finishes by other teams. Women’s basketball made it to the Elite Eight for 73 points, and both swimming programs finished in sixth place for 73.5 points each. Although the winter total of 427.00 points was less Williams’ 483.25, the Bears’ fall kept them on top.

Assistant Athletic Director for Communications Chris Mitchell noted how important it is for an athletic program to be consistent.

“The national championships are great, but across the board, how consistent the fall and winter sports have been—that’s a tribute to how strong our athletic program is,” he said.

It’s hard to calculate what exactly it will take to win the championship, knowing how much teams’ rankings can change throughout the course of a season. The result will also greatly depend on how Williams and Tufts University, the two programs trailing Wash. U., fare in spring sports.

With five of seven spring teams ranked nationally, Wash. U. seems on track to secure the number necessary for the Cup. Women’s outdoor track and field, part of a track program that has been consistent this season, is ranked first in the country, while men’s tennis is ranked No. 6. Women’s tennis is also in the national top 10, and baseball has recently moved into national rankings.

The scoring system for the Cup, however, puts Wash. U.’s program at a disadvantage, as the school sponsors 19 varsity teams, and thus only one team (the one with the least successful season) is not counted in standings. In contrast, the Directors’ Cup reigning champions, Williams—who have won the Cup all but two years since the contest’s 1993 inception—has 30 varsity teams. Tufts sponsors 28 teams.

Wash. U. hasn’t won the award since it was extended to Division III in 1995. However, the Bears have ranked in the top five for the last 10 years.

The Bears coaches, athletic staff and fans hope this will be the year Wash. U. earns the trophy.

“I think Wash. U. has put themselves in a place to have an opportunity to win the Cup,” Mitchell said. “Whether we win or not will be determined on the field of play, on the diamonds and the tennis courts, but we have definitely given ourselves an opportunity to win our first Directors’ Cup.”

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