It’s hard to imagine Stanford without Hoover Tower, NSO fountain-hopping or the one, the only, the truly incomparable Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. But what about Stanford without the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup?
That’s right—our annual trophy-room stuffer is not a given this time around. Although the Cardinal has won the award 18 years in a row, Stanford might not even be the 2013 favorite entering the final round of spring playoffs.
For those not familiar with how the Directors’ Cup winner is chosen, up to 20 team sports (10 men’s and 10 women’s) can earn a school points for the award according to their final postseason bracket position. All sports—even football—have the same maximum point value.
As of April 25, when official results were last released, Stanford was in second place with 902.75 points, just slightly behind Michigan at 914.25. The Cardinal likely jumped into first last weekend when its women’s water polo team lost the national title game to USC, but it still isn’t safe because the Cardinal teams that haven’t finished their seasons yet are unlikely to make deep postseason runs. Men’s volleyball failed to make its tournament, lacrosse lost in the second round (exceeding just about everyone’s expectations, I should note) and baseball, a traditional strength, is going to have to pull off a miracle to qualify for a regional.
One school that will likely gain on Stanford across the board is Florida, looming at No. 4 in the last official standings with 748.50 points. Its women’s lacrosse team is playing in the Elite Eight on Saturday; its baseball team should make the postseason even despite its struggles in the ultra-competitive SEC. The Gators are also dominant in women’s tennis (No. 1 in the country), women’s golf (No. 5) and softball (No. 2), three sports in which the Cardinal is an outside title contender at best.
Several factors have put Stanford in an unusually tenuous position this year, among them, the relatively early exit by women’s basketball in the Sweet Sixteen and Final Four losses by women’s soccer and water polo, teams that won titles in 2011-12. Baseball is probably most to blame.
But my goal here isn’t to point fingers at the dedicated student-athletes here who, like any other sports players, suffer disappointments every now and then. Instead, I’ve been asking myself a different question for the last couple weeks: How upset should we be if Stanford doesn’t win this year’s Directors’ Cup?
Even when the award was a foregone conclusion, the Directors’ Cup had special meaning to Cardinal fans. We could boast that Stanford truly had the top athletics program in the country, and when our friends scoffed at the idea—how could an elite academic institution be any good at sports?—we always pointed right at our 18 sparkling trophies. The Directors’ Cup record has become almost a catchphrase, heard and seen across campus. The University uses it to recruit prospective student-athletes, prints it on t-shirts and brags about it on one of the banners at The Axe & Palm.
But I can’t help but think that the rest of the college athletics world is a little bit resentful. North Carolina won in 1993-94, when the Tar Heels edged Stanford by 21.5 points for the inaugural trophy, but it’s been all Cardinal since then. Capital One even created two alternate awards weighted towards big-name sports, just so that someone other than Stanford could win. Of course we can take pride in our athletic department’s success, but we’ve also got to admit that we’ve been hogging this one award a little bit—and at a school that is too often misidentified as elitist, maybe that’s not for the best.
I’m not suggesting that Stanford try to lose; I’m still going to be pulling for the Cardinal to win a 19th straight Directors’ Cup over the next month. But let’s not bite our nails over the prospect of someone else winning the trophy, and let’s not be sore losers if our crystal collection fails to grow this year.
You know what they say: Sharing is caring.
Joseph Beyda shares his care for consecutive consonants quite commonly. Send some similar sentences—silly or serious—to jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu or @DailyJBeyda.