Saturday, March 26, 2005

Director's Cup Update | by Pat

As you may or may not know, Notre Dame ended the fall semester ranked #1 in the NACDA Director's Cup standing for the first time in the school's history. The preliminary winter update was released Thursday and Notre Dame lost the lead, but is still holding on to 3rd place behind Michigan and Stanford.

For those unfamiliar with the rules, a school is awarded points in a maximum of 20 sports. In Division I, those twenty sports are split evenly; ten male sports and ten female sports. Sports like fencing count as a men's sport, but can be moved to the women's category if they don't have ten scoring women's sports. As it stands now, Notre Dame competes in twenty-five of the thirty-six qualifying sports. Perennial Director's Cup favorite Stanford fields thirty-three.

Yet, a quick look at Director Cup recent history shows that ND has never maxed out the twenty team scoring. In 2001/2002, ND scored in ten women's sports and eight men's sports. In 2002/2003, eight women's teams scored and seven men's teams did likewise. Last year, the number was ten for the women and six for the men. Ironically, the year among this very limited sample set that ND had the fewest scoring teams (02/03), ND had it's best finish, placing 13th overall. Both in 01/02 and 03/04, Notre Dame finished in 19th place.

Obviously, the return of the football program to Top 10 contention would help out the standings as would an increase in the performance of the men's basketball team. Also, an interesting change to the scoring setup seems to have a negative effect on the Irish score. The total number of points given for fencing was cut in half so Notre Dame's national championship in fencing awarded the school 50 points towards the Directors Cup, rather than the usual 100. As a point of contrast, Penn State's 23rd place in men's wrestling awarded them 51 points. Even Stanford got 37 points for their 37th place in wrestling.

The recent creation of the Rockne Hertiage Foundation and fully funded scholarships for all Olympic sports prove that Notre Dame and Kevin White are serious about improving the performance of all Notre Dame sports. But the fact of the matter is that it will be hard for Notre Dame to compete year in and year out for the Director's Cup without adding some sports to the mix. The problem is that the school is not going to be able to spend more money on so-called non-revenue earning sports. This is due to not only the lack of football bowl money in recent years, but also the fact that a significant amount of money has been directed towards buying out the contracts of the two men primarily responsible for the lack of bowl money.

The optimistic take is that in the near future Notre Dame will have reaped the bounty of numerous bowl appearances including several lucrative BCS showings and will have enough cash to resurrect the historically strong men's wrestling program as well as adding a women's hockey team. It would be a bold step and admittedly is a best case scenario, but one Notre Dame might have to take to have a serious chance at bringing home the Director's Cup more than once.

As an aside, unlike fans of most universities, the high standing in the Director's Cup isn't exactly a source of pride among Irish fans, and at times is even the butt of a few stale jokes. Most of this blame lies in the fact that that Fr. Malloy and Kevin White used Notre Dame's standings in the Director's Cup as a sign that all was well during the past eight years of mediocre Irish football. To many Notre Dame diehards this was the equivalent of pointing out the beauty of a new deck while the roof was springing leaks and ruining the interior of the house. But I think it's pretty clear that those days are over and while Weis still has to prove himself on the football field, all indications are that Notre Dame has people in charge who not only know what they are doing, but won't need to fall back on distractions and excuses to cover up shortcomings.