UNC tops ACC in Directors Cup standings; State, Wake show improvement

The Tar Heels, boosted by a national title in mens basketball, finished fifth overall in the annual all-sports competition among the nations Division I schools

Mark J. Rebilas—USA Today Sports
UNC's strong showing in the Directors' Cup standings was boosted by the national championship it won in men's basketball in April

The Directors’ Cup standings aren’t an entirely accurate way of ranking the nation’s top college athletic programs because of a scoring system that’s skewed to benefit schools that sponsor the most varsity teams.It’s the reason Stanford, which boasts 36 varsity teams, has won the all-sports competition in each of the last 23 years. Wake Forest, by contrast, fields only 16 programs while North Carolina and NC State have 26 and 22 teams, respectively.Taken in its proper context, however, the Directors’ Cup can be an an effective way of comparing a school’s performance from year-to-year.In that respect, 2016-17 can be considered a success for the Tar Heels, Wolfpack and Deacons.UNC, boosted by a national championship in men’s basketball and a runner-up finishes in field hockey and men’s tennis, finished fifth in the overall standings and was the top-rated program among ACC schools with 1,154 points.This marks the 18th time that the Tar Heels have topped the conference in the Directors’ Cup standings. It’s also their seventh top-five overall finish and their best since finishing second in 2009. UNC, in 1994, is the only other school besides Stanford to have won a Directors’ Cup title.Of greater significance, this year’s finish is an improvement from last year’s seventh-place showing and 1,089.50 points.State and Wake also showed improvement from 2015-16 in this year’s final standings, which were announced Thursday.The Wolfpack continued an upward trend by finishing 29th overall and sixth in the ACC with a score of 710.50. That’s four places and 32.50 points higher than a year ago, and the second-best result in school history.State has posted its three highest Directors’ Cup finishes in each of the past three years.Wake, meanwhile, made a quantum leap from last year’s 68th-place finish by placing 55th overall and 11th among ACC schools. The Deacons’ 443 points were an improvement of more than 100, thanks to a national runnerup showing in men’s soccer, a football bowl game and NCAA tournament appearances in both men’s basketball and baseball.That’s an especially impressive result considering that they are at a distinct numerical disadvantage to most of their rivals.The Directors’ Cup scoring system awards points to a maximum of 10 men’s and 10 women’s programs per school, based on NCAA postseason results. Wake has only eight men’s and eight women’s varsity teams.Unlike its three in-state ACC rivals, Duke finished worse in 2016-17 than it did during the previous season.The Blue Devils finished 32nd overall and seventh among ACC schools with 679.5 points, down from 24th place with 804 points in 2015-16.East Carolina, meanwhile, had an even more dramatic drop.The Pirates, who finished 114th last year with a total of 150.0 points, fell completely off the list of 293 programs because they failed to register a point in the 17 sports they sponsored this year.Other state Division I schools that did qualify for consideration include Campbell (119th, 145.5 points), Charlotte (137th, 117), Appalachian State (161st, 92.5), NC A&T (169th, 85), High Point (179th, 78), Davidson (203rd, 64), UNC Wilmington (213th, 50), Elon (213th, 50), Gardner-Webb (248th, 26), UNC Greensboro (252nd, 25); UNC Asheville (252nd, 25), NC Central (293rd, 5).