Saturday, November 25, 2006

Changing the NACDA Directors' Cup Scoring System to Change the Winner?

In 1993, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) established the Directors' Cup to reward the best overall NCAA Division I (other divisions & the NAIA were added 1995) athletic program in the country. North Carolina won the first Directors' Cup in 1993-94; however, the twelve subsequent Division I cups have been won by my alma mater, Stanford University.

On November 1, the NACDA announced a new scoring methodology for the contest. At first glance, the new rules – scoring both indoor/outdoor track, scoring all sports for which the NCAA/NAIA offers a championship (a change required by a new Program Philosophy) – do not seem to harm Stanford's chances of continued dominance in this contest. However, I can't help but wonder why the NACDA would change the rules other than to unseat Stanford University (and Williams College, which has won 10 of 11 Division III cups) from the top of the standings. (Also, note that UC Davis would likely still be winning the Division II award had it not started migrating sports to NCAA Division I in 2003.)

The original sponsor the Directors' Cup, Sears, ended its sponsorship of the contest in 2003. The present sponsor is a much less high profile organization (The U.S. Sports Academy). Although I don't know why Sears terminated its relationship with the program, the annual standings for the contest tell the tale: No one cares about the Directors' Cup, for the end result is almost always the same. Since the contest appears practically predetermined, the media ignores it. Why would a retailer throw advertising dollars at a contest sponsorship when ESPN et al. do not amplify those dollars through coverage of the contest?

Don't get me wrong: I'm a Stanford partisan, and I grin a big, provincial grin whenever Stanford wins any contest. Yet, whether it be through a rule change or a rough year, it's clear that their string of consecutive Directors' Cups cannot last. If Stanford & Williams continue their dominance unabated, I wouldn't be surprised to hear one day that the NACDA has decided to stop expending energy and resources on tabulating a contest that is not a contest.

A Parting Note: The reality is that collegiate athletic programs change very little from one year to another, so it's not surprising that the same affluent school, interested in investing in teams in each and every arcane varsity sport, would win every year. Maybe the NACDA is taking advice from U.S. News & World Report, whose overall collegiate rankings appear to be based on a methodology that changes every year, even if the data measured (the excellence of one school compared to another) do not.

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