There are several measures of an athletic department’s overall success and none of them are indisputable.
There are the Learfield Directors’ Cup rankings, which had Virginia in 15th place this year – the first time in four years that the Cavaliers had finished outside the top 10.
As recently as 2010, UVa was third in the Directors’ Cup competition, so, yes, there’s been a dropoff over the past two years.
There’s also the matter of ACC championships. In a 10-year plan that was drawn up in 2002, UVa set a goal of winning 70 ACC championships. That comes out to seven a year, but this year the Cavaliers had four, their lowest total since 2006-2007, when they won three.
On the other hand, Virginia’s football played in a bowl game and the men’s basketball team played in the NCAA Tournament. I’m not sure you can consider yourself a successful program without doing that, especially when you consider the resources devoted to those two sports.
Virginia had last played in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in 2007 and had made its last bowl trip at the end of the 2007 football season, but those postseason appearances were not in the same school year.
The last time UVa had been to a bowl game and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in the same school year was 2000-2001, when the Cavaliers lost to Georgia 37-14 in the O’ahu Bowl in George Welsh last season as head coach.
That spring, Gonzaga beat a Pete Gillen-coached UVa men’s basketball team 86-85 in the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Memphis, Tenn.
Check out the Director’s Cup final rankings and most of the nation’s highly regarded athletic departments are generally among the leaders, but there are flaws in the system.
Virginia’s football team goes to a bowl game and finishes 8-5 but gets no Directors’ Cup points because it is outside the Top 25. On the other hand, the UVa scores three points in the NCAA men’s outdoor track-and-field championships, ties for 56th place and gets 15 Director’s Cup points.
UVa has more than 20 intercollegiate sports but for the sake of the annual Doughty Rankings, men’s and women’s teams with the same head coach are lumped together.
Here are one man’s rankings based on the overall wellbeing of the programs at this point:
1. ROWING — I shied away from ranking rowing No. 1 following coach Kevin Sauer’s first national championship in 2010. I didn’t feel that the competition was as severe in rowing as it is in other sports, but consider some of the programs that furnished Virginia’s stiffest competition for its second national championship this past spring – Michigan, Cal, Ohio State, Southern Cal, Washington, Princeton and UCLA. That’s as impressive as the men’s lacrosse field (2011 ranking: 6).
2. MEN’S TENNIS — For the second year in a row, Virginia got to the NCAA final before losing to Southern Cal. Coach Brian Boland, who has won six straight ACC titles and 89 consecutive conference matches, is almost a victim of his own success. (2011 ranking: 1).
3. SWIMMING — Coach Mark Bernardino accounted for half of Virginia’s conference titles this year – his 15th in men’s swimming and 10th in women’s swimming. The UVa men finished 15th at the NCAA championships and the women were 17th without Olympic gold medalist Lauren Perdue, who will be back for her fourth year. (2011 ranking: 3).
4. BASEBALL — Only nine other Division I teams can match Virginia’s nine straight NCAA appearances, most of which have found the Cavaliers playing at home on the first weekend. Oklahoma eliminated UVa in Charlottesville for the second time in three years, but it was going to be difficult for Virginia to repeat its 2011 season, including an ACC championship and trip to the College World Series. (2011 ranking: 2).
5. MEN’S LACROSSE – After winning the national championship in 2011, the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 in the country for most of the 2012 season but they were only 4-4 over the last eight games. Coach Dom Starsia has won four NCAA titles in 21 years at UVa but only six conference titles, one since 2006, in a league where only four teams play. (2011 ranking: 4).
6. WOMEN’S GOLF – The Cavaliers are still looking for their first ACC women’s golf title but they finished fourth at the NCAA championships for the second year in a row. UVa has made five straight NCAA appearances and returns its top five scorers. (2011 ranking: 6).
7. FIELD HOCKEY – Virginia was ranked No. 3 in the country after reaching the semifinals in 2010 but the Cavaliers couldn’t make up for the absence of national-team members Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese, who will be returning as fifth-year seniors after representing the United States in the Olympics. (2011 ranking: 7).
8. MEN’S GOLF – If not for their 22nd-place finish at the NCAAs, this UVa team would deserve to be ranked higher. The Cavaliers boasted the ACC indidividual champion in Ben Rusch and finished second in the team competition but continue to search for the first ACC title in the program’s 38-year history.
9. FOOTBALL – After back-to-back three- and four-win seasons, most UVa football fans were just hoping the Cavaliers could get to .500 last year. An 8-5 season will be hard to duplicate but the talent level continues to rise. This program was 19th in the 2010 Doughty rankings (2011 ranking: 12).
10. MEN’S BASKETBALL – Men’s basketball and football are at a comparable stage under third- and fourth-year head coaches Mike London and Tony Bennett but the football program seems to recruit at a higher level. Still, 2013 recruit Devon Hall gives Bennett a much-coveted point guard. (2011 ranking: 11).
11. WOMEN’S SOCCER – The good news is that Virginia is ranked No. 7 in the country. The bad news is that UVa is picked fifth in the ACC behind Duke, Wake Forest, Florida State and North Carolina. Remember when it was good to be picked one spot behind North Carolina in women’s soccer? (2011 ranking: 10).
12. MEN’S SOCCER – There aren’t many UVa programs that have been as up-and-down as George Gelnovatch’s team. After winning the NCAA title in 2009, the Cavaliers have lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons. (2011 ranking: 9).
13. WOMEN’S TENNIS – Marc Guilbeau’s program hasn’t advanced as quickly as its men’s counterpart but it clearly has made progress, advancing to the final 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament after getting as high as No. 8 in the rankings. Guilbeau’s top two players were seniors, but he has recruited well. (2011 ranking: 14).
14. WOMEN’S BASKETBALL – They didn’t make the NCAA Tournament in 2012 but maybe they should have. Coach Joanne Boyle’s first team won 25 games despite losing Debbie Ryan’s top recruits and have been adding to their talent pool. (2011 ranking: 16).
15. WOMEN’S LACROSSE – Julie Myers is one of eight UVa coaches to have won a national championship, only four of whom remain active, including Starsia, Sauer and Gelnovatch. The UVa women’s lacrosse team was ranked as high as No. 6 in the country last year but, for the third time in four years, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. UNC has eliminated UVa by scores of 17-7 and 15-7 each of the past two seasons. (2011 ranking: 17).
16. WRESTLING –Wrestling is a lot like men’s lacrosse in that not a lot of schools field teams, but the ones that do are serious about it. UVa has won one ACC championship in the past 36 years, that coming in 2010. (2011 ranking: 15).
17. CROSS COUNTRY – The women finished 20th at the NCAA championships; then, one day later, coach Jason Vigilante resigned. The Cavaliers had only one representative in the men’s championships, which they had won three out of four years between 2005-2008 (2010 ranking: 8).
18. INDOOR AND OUTDOOR TRACK AND FIELD – If it’s really important to a school to do well in the Director’s Cup – and clearly Virginia wants to do well – then track and field and cross country are where to pile up the points because that’s six opportunities to score. Florida State got 395.5 Directors’ Cup points in those events last year; UVa got 104, ahead of only UNC in the top 15. (2011 ranking: 18).
19. VOLLEYBALL – A 10-20 overall record and a 4-16 conference mark led to the departure of coach Lee Maes after four seasons. Two of Maes’ recruiting classes were ranked in the top 20 nationally and it is UVa’s hope that former Penn State assistant Dennis Hohenshelt will get the most out of them.
20. SOFTBALL – Softball was 20th in 2011 on general principles after getting swept by Longwood at home and Radford at Radford. This year, the Cavaliers were 2-2 against those same teams but lost 12 of their last 19 games overall in finishing 26-25. Facilities are seen as ONE of the problems (2010 ranking: 20).