Behind women, Card eke out 19th straight Cup

We said all along that Stanford's pursuit of its 19th straight Directors' Cup would be one of the closest races ever. Sure enough, Stanford beat Florida 1,262.25-1,240.75, with the 21.5-point spread representing a 0.8% margin of victory, easily the narrowest spread yet. (And the 37-year national title streak is safe. You can exhale now.)

The state of Florida is used to razor-thin margins and recounts, and here Stanford had 50.4% to Florida's 49.6% of the teams' combined point total (2,503). Or perhaps it was a matter of timing: the Cardinal had beat the Gators last year by a 1,448.25-1,314 margin, so had they strung together an identical tally this year, they would have won the trophy.

To fully appreciate how close this contest was, consider that any of these hypotheticals, independently, would have been enough to swing the trophy to the Gators:

  • If Stanford men's tennis hadn't been one of the last at-large teams selected into the NCAA field. (-25 points)
  • If No. 1 seed Florida women's tennis had beaten No. 12 seed Stanford in their semifinal matchup. (-17 points for Stanford, +7 for Florida) Stanford just barely won the best-of-seven match, 4-3, en route to a national title.
  • Florida baseball didn't need to advance out of its Regional (+39 points), it simply needed to make its Regional Finals (+25). Instead, the Gators lost in one-run games to Austin Peay and Valparaiso, neither exactly powerhouses in the sport. Think the Gators would want another crack there?
  • If Stanford football, left for dead just over five years ago, hadn't risen from the ashes. (-73.5 points for a losing season) Heck, even a solid No. 23 in the final polls (-22.5 points) wouldn't have been enough.

For a truly crazy scenario, imagine if Stanford track's Kori Carter hadn't scored at the NCAA Finals. Stanford would have counted lacrosse's 53 points as its 10th women's sport (-19.75), while Florida would have finished a place better at track (+1.5). Stanford would have had a 0.25-point win, for less than a 0.01% margin of victory.

To be fair, Stanford had some close calls to drop nearly 200 points off last year's total. Women's water polo lost its national championship game in four overtimes. (+10 points) Men's swimming would have placed third (+13), if memory serves, if not for two relay disqualifications. Men's golf was a top-ten team that just barely missed qualifying for the NCAA Finals (about +25). Men's basketball, baseball, volleyball and water polo each would have netted at least 25 points for making their NCAA Tournaments. Finally, men's track could have added another 25 points or so had it not failed to score at the NCAA Finals for the first time since 1996.

Looking forward: Men's sports are key
The final standings are below. Stanford averaged nearly 77 points per women's sport, which represents a top-five average finish across ten sports. Sure enough, Stanford's women scored nine top-10 finishes this year, including a first, a second and two thirds. This is a perfect game-esque performance from the women. While I have no doubt Stanford's women will score well in the years to come, to expect them to do that again is unfair.

Naturally then, this brings us to the men. It's unreasonable to expect the men to match the women's scores, as they are getting pinched at both ends. In high-profile men's sports, every Division I school is spending millions to compete, so while Stanford and UConn can make five straight women's basketball Final Fours, for example, no school can expect such a sustained run on the men's side. In low-profile sports, meanwhile, there are smaller playoffs and thus fewer points to go around, owing to Title IX. Top-ten men's volleyball and men's water polo can't reasonably be expected to make their four-team playoffs every year, and so it's inevitable they're going to take some zeros.

Still, if you strip out co-ed fencing, the men managed only 427.5 points, or 44% less than the women, or an average of approximately a 32nd place finish, factoring in the two zeros. Stanford needs to do better.

Our readers make much of a perceived dichotomy between success in high-profile sports and winning the Directors' Cup, but the truth is actually quite the opposite. The Cardinal needed football's top-ten finish to win the trophy this year, and just barely survived basketball and baseball's postseason no-shows. Moving forward, the competition is stiff enough that if men's basketball, men's baseball and men's football aren't consistent top-25 teams, Stanford will lose this trophy. The Cup has truly become emblematic of success in all sports.

Stanford Total: 1,262.25 points (Last year: 1,448.25)

Men (493.5)

  1. Gymnastics 85 (3rd)
  2. Football 73.5 (6th)
  3. Swimming 72 (7th)
  4. Fencing 66 (8th)
  5. Cross country 58.5 (16th)
  6. Indoor track 43.5 (30th)
  7. Wrestling 35.5 (38th)
  8. Golf 34.5 (T-37th)
  9. Tennis 25 (T-33rd)

Women (768.75)

  1. Tennis 100 (1st)
  2. Water polo 90 (2nd)
  3. Cross country 85 (3rd)
  4. Soccer 83 (T-3rd)
  5. Volleyball 73 (T-5th)
  6. Track & field 72.75 (T-6th)
  7. Swimming 70.5 (8th)
  8. Gymnastics 68.25 (T-7th)
  9. Basketball 64 (T-9th)
  10. Golf 62.25 (13th)

Florida – 1,240.75

Men (523)

  1. Track 95 (T-1st)
  2. Indoor track 90 (2nd)
  3. Swimming 73.5 (6th)
  4. Basketball 73 (T-5th)
  5. Football 67.5 (10th)
  6. Golf 49 (25th)
  7. Cross country 29 (32nd)
  8. Tennis 25 (T-33rd)
  9. Baseball 25 (T-33rd)

Women (717.75)

  1. Gymnastics 100 (1st)
  2. Tennis 83 (T-3rd)
  3. Softball 78 (T-5th)
  4. Swimming 73.5 (6th)
  5. Lacrosse 70 (T-5th)
  6. Track 65.25 (T-11th)
  7. Volleyball 64 (T-9th)
  8. Soccer 64 (T-9th)
  9. Indoor track 63 (13th)
  10. Golf 57 (17th)

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