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KELLY: UA sitting in an improved Directors’ Cup position

UA WBK (21) beats UCONN via NCAA-Justin Tafoya
NCAA/Justin Tafoya
UA Women's Basketball's advancement to the national championship game will help elevate UA's Directors' Cup standing (Photo courtesy: NCAA/Justin Tafoya)

TUCSON (KVOA) -- It looks like the Learfield Directors’ Cup will return in the COVID-19 athletic year that has been 2020-21. 

News 4 Tucson has learned the committee within the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) that oversees the Cup has met and is finalizing its recommendation for this year.  

The Directors' Cup ranks NCAA Athletics departments based on their excellence. Excellence being defined by a department's ability to qualify as many of its programs as possible for NCAA Tournaments and Championships. 

The guidelines for the Cup will stay as normal and be based only on teams that qualified for NCAAs.  

The committee did look at, but ultimately decided not to move on, awarding points to Fall bubble teams left out due to the reduction of tournaments from 64 to 48 qualifiers.  

UA had two such teams in volleyball (10-11) and soccer (9-5-1) that failed to make their respective NCAA Tournaments due to the reduced fields. 

Arizona is on pace to score NCAA points in 13-of-21 sports. In a normal year, the Wildcats likely would have been 16-of-21 (VB, SOC, MBK) and maybe even 17 if beach volleyball had qualified. 

UA Beach Volleyball (22-6) was ranked 8th but the selection committee took 9th ranked Stanford instead. The NCAA Beach Volleyball Championships is only an eight-team event.

Men’s Basketball self-sanctioned itself with a one-year post-season ban as a result of the allegations levied by the NCAA from the Bribery Scandal. 

I generally see 16 NCAA qualifying teams as what is needed for UA to have a shot to jump up into in the Directors’ Cup Top 25. 

The Directors' Cup has been awarded to the best athletics departments in the NCAA since 1994 (Photo courtesy: NACDA)

The Wildcats could likely finish with as many as six Elite Eight teams which even with only 13 qualifiers could put them in no worse than a Top 30 position. 

Women’s Basketball in April advanced to the national championship game for the first time. 

Men’s Tennis is one victory over Tennessee next Monday from moving on to the Elite Eight. 

Baseball, softball and women’s and men’s golf are also set up for possible deep runs in their respective championships. 

UA’s last Top 25 finish was 2016 (25th) but the overall success of the department has slipped dramatically in the last three years as the Wildcats have finished 42nd (2017), 51st (2018) and 41st (2019). Their three lowest placements since the Cup was 1st awarded in 1994. 

The onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic, and the shuttering of the Winter championships and Spring sports seasons in 2020, forced the Directors' Cup to be cancelled.

Normally the Cup standings are released and updated beginning in December as the initial Fall seasons end but NACDA tells News 4 Tucson that if the Directors' Cup is awarded in 2021 there will be just one release of the standings at the conclusion of the athletic year (end of June). 

UA’s Directors’ Cup finishes: 

  • 1994 6th 
  • 1995 4th 
  • 1996 7th 
  • 1997 6th 
  • 1998 6th 
  • 1999 T9th 
  • 2000 8th 
  • 2001 5th 
  • 2002 9th 
  • 2003 16th 
  • 2004 12th 
  • 2005 18th 
  • 2006 11th 
  • 2007 24th 
  • 2008 27th 
  • 2009 24th 
  • 2010 30th 
  • 2011 16th 
  • 2012 19th 
  • 2013 23rd 
  • 2014 26th 
  • 2015 36th 
  • 2016 25th 
  • 2017 42nd 
  • 2018 51st 
  • 2019 41st 
  • 2020 Cancelled due to COVID-19

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David Kelly

David Kelly is the weekend sports anchor at KVOA in Tucson. He is a 28-year veteran of the sports broadcast business.

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