Though my colleague Jacob Jaffe has explored the many, many failings of the Capital One Cup in the past, I feel like it’s a good time to revisit the issue now that the winter sports season is winding down and the big spring sports—led by baseball and softball—are in full swing.
With a few winter sports left to be counted, Stanford is holding its own in the standings, at third in the women’s competition and fourth in the men’s (and that doesn’t count the results of the recent women’s NCAA Tournament).
So it appears that the Capital One Cup has completed at least one of its stated missions: prevent Stanford from winning every year by splitting up men’s and women’s sports and creating a tier system to award more points to sports on the basis of “popularity” (i.e. ones arbitrarily chosen by the Cup’s organizers). The other goal—to award schools for being good at football and basketball—seems to be working fairly well, as the two teams atop the men’s standings are Auburn and Connecticut.
Having seen the results roll in so far, I can see flaws in the Capital One Cup—most obviously, is its egregious bias in favor of the big revenue sports. Aside from its top finish in football, the Auburn men only have one other top-10 finish (sixth place at the swimming and diving championships), while UConn has only its basketball title to speak of. On the women’s side of things, Cal is in the lead, but its position is fairly warranted: the Golden Bears won the swimming title and finished second in volleyball.
Yet the most important failing that I see in the Capital One Cup is its division into men’s and women’s sports. An award that purports to reward overall athletic excellence should do just that, without any conditions. I see no reason to separate out the men’s and women’s programs, since the exploits of male and female athletes should not merit separate awards. It also hurts programs like Stanford’s, whose strength has traditionally lain in its women’s teams.
With that said, I believe that the Directors’ Cup—which Stanford has won 16 consecutive years—has some flaws of its own which could use correcting. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Stanford has won the award every year buts its first, but the Cardinal’s strength comes from more than one source. Of course, Stanford has exemplary programs top to bottom, but a large reason for our Directors’ Cup dominance is the sheer size of our athletic program.
Stanford fields 31 varsity athletic teams, easily one of the largest programs in the country. Looking down the final Directors’ Cup standings from last season, it is clear that Stanford’s size gives it an unmistakable edge. Second-place Florida has 21 varsity programs, third-place Virginia has 25 and UCLA, coming in fourth, has 22 teams. Thus, the Cardinal has a bigger margin of error, since it can rely on a large number of programs (each of which is equally weighted) to inflate its place in the standings.
Thus, the Directors’ Cup should implement a weighting system of its own, which ensures that programs are not punished simply for a relative lack of size. Unlike the Capital One Cup’s arbitrary weighting system, sports should be weighted in the Directors’ Cup by how many Division I programs exist in that sport. Being the best team out of almost 300 D-I men’s basketball programs should count more than winning in water polo, which is played almost exclusively on the West Coast. Stanford gets a good number of points from gymnastics, and though the Cardinal wins championships in the sport regularly, there aren’t as many men’s gymnastics teams in the country as there are teams that make the NCAA women’s basketball tournament.
Stanford would, of course, still have an excellent chance of winning the Directors’ Cup for every year from now until the apocalypse. However, its victory will be even stronger when our competition knows it doesn’t come from sheer size.
Kabir Sawhney wants to tell you about the sheer size of his “program.” Find out what that means at ksawhney “at” stanford.edu.