2014 Directors Cup Update: Virginia poised for strong finish

Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE

After a rough 2012-2013 year, the Hoos are back on track in the Directors' Cup race

In the latest release of the Directors' Cup standings, after the conclusion of winter sports, Virginia sits in 15th place with 551.5 points.  Stanford, which sits in position to easily win the competition once again, is in the lead, with Penn State, Florida, Michigan, and Wisconsin rounding out the top 5.  With spring sports underway, UVA is in position for a strong finish.

The Directors' Cup awards points on college sports programs' finishes in up to 20 sports, both men's and women's, and is the most widely used barometer on overall performance of a university's athletics program.  Here are the current standings, and this is a full breakdown of how scoring is done.  Essentially, the champion in each sport gets 100 points, while all teams who make the NCAA Championship bracket (or appear in the final poll, for sports without a team tournament), get some lesser point total.

Virginia's athletics program reached its pinnacle in the 2009-2010 season, finishing a program-best 3rd place overall (and just a hair behind Florida for the #2 spot).  However, since then, UVA's performance has been steadily sliding, culminating in a #20 overall finish last year.

However, buoyed by a strong fall from the men's and women's soccer and cross country squads, and the basketball team's sweet 16 run, Virginia is in strong shape for an improved showing this season.  To see where we could expect UVA to finish in the final standings, here's a look at the program's historical performances:

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There's a good deal of year-to-year consistency here.  Spring is UVA's strongest season by far; the program averages 476 points during fall and winter, and an additional 542 points during the spring.  Thus, Virginia generally improves by about 11 places from the final winter standings to the final overall standings - obviously, the worse shape the program is in after winter, the more room there is to improve.

During Virginia's banner 2009-2010, the Hoos picked up an all-time high of 643 points in the spring.  The rowing team won a championship, the baseball team made the super-regionals, golf finished 13th and 11th, track and field finished 23rd, the men's tennis and women's tennis teams finished 3rd and 17th, and the men's and women's lax teams made the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.  Heck, even softball picked up points for making the NCAA tournament.

That type of depth of scoring is unlikely this season, but UVA's spring sports programs are having strong years, and aren't far off the pace.  However, the men's lacrosse team's round of 16 loss didn't get things off to a good postseason start.  Here's a rudimentary analysis of where the Hoos may end up:

A historically "average" spring (~540 points) would take UVA close to 1,100 points overall, which would have been good enough for 7th, 5th, and 7th place over the past 3 seasons (we'll call that 7th place).  A historically "poor" spring, closer to last year's ~450 points, would have Virginia finishing at about 1,000 points, good for about 11th place.  And a historically "great" spring (closer to the 2011 pace of ~640 points), would get Virginia to just under 1,200 points, which has been good enough for a top-5 finish over the past 3 seasons.  Based on the performance of our spring sports teams so far, UVA looks to be average to slightly above average relative to past years:

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What does it all mean? Virginia is a virtual lock to improve on their Directors' Cup performances in the last 2 years.  The program is also a good bet to break into the top 10 for the first time since the 2010-2011 year.  With strong showings from the spring programs, UVA would have a shot at finishing in the top 5 once again.

(Sorry...Stanford is still gonna clobber everyone).

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