The Florida Gators were nowhere near the top 10 of the Learfield NACDA Directors’ Cup standings entering the winter after a lack of truly superlative seasons in the fall, and only made up some ground over the course of that winter.
Then spring came, and the Gators sprung.
After an astonishing spring season in which the Gators captured championships in women’s tennis, men’s outdoor track and field, and baseball in a span of just over five weeks, Florida vaulted in the competition, finishing third in the final 2017 Directors’ Cup standings for Division I athletic programs.
Only Stanford and Ohio State finished ahead of Florida in this year’s edition of the nation’s all-sports competition, and the Cardinal — who have won the Directors’ Cup in all but one year of its existence — and Buckeyes had been No. 1 and No. 2 in the standings entering the spring thanks to marvelous performances in the fall and winter, respectively. Stanford scored 504.5 points in the fall, thanks to a slew of top-10 finishes and national titles in men’s soccer and women’s volleyball, and Ohio State posted 615 points in the spring by virtue of nine different sports scoring 40 or more points for their finishes, including runner-up finishes in fencing, men’s gymnastics, and men’s wrestling.
The Gators, though, roared from No. 13 to No. 3 after a phenomenal spring, in which six programs scored 60 or more points for top-10 finishes, and Florida’s three championship squads each earned the full 100 points awarded for No. 1 finishes in their sports. Florida’s total of 683.25 points during the spring is more than any other Division I school posted during any other period, and while that tidy sum couldn’t get the Gators past the Cardinal or Buckeyes, it did move them ahead of storied programs like USC, Michigan, Texas, and Oregon.
The No. 3 finish also extends Florida’s streak of consecutive top-10 finishes in the Directors’ Cup standings to 34 years — the entire span of the competition. No other school has finished in the top 10 in every edition of the standings, as Stanford missed the top 10 in its inaugural year before climbing to the mountaintop and staying there ever since.
It’s also worth noting that Florida does not field quite as many teams as many of the schools that it competes with in the Directors’ Cup — Florida has 21 varsity programs; Stanford has 36, and Ohio State 37 — and that the scoring format for the competition significantly favors schools with more programs.
But thanks in part to a ninth straight academic year with a national title, the longest in school history, the Gators have nine straight top-five Directors’ Cup finishes — and the dream of someday unseating Stanford from the top spot, a long-held goal under former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley, remains alive and well under his successor, Scott Stricklin.