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UNC Is A Basketball School And Then Some

Longtime reader Santiago put together a comprehensive look at how UNC has performed in the Director's Cup over the past couple of decades. Since we are all borderline depressed over the current NCAA exam being performed on the football program it would be a real spirit lifter to see how well the athletic program as a whole has done over the years.

This past season notwithstanding, UNC has the reputation of being a basketball school. Personally, I hate the label. But, it’s a binary world, and it seems everything is either one thing or the other: Democrat or Republican, Mac or PC, Coke or Pepsi, basketball school or football school. What are you gonna do?

The ABC crowd uses this label pejoratively as a way to minimize the school’s athletic success in general and marginalize Carolina basketball fans in particular. Carolina is a basketball school. Always has been; always will be. Of course, it’s not that simple. But, there are many Carolina fans that treat football season as merely an appetizer to the entrée of basketball. And when it comes to non-revenue sports, forget about it. The casual Carolina fan has no clue, unless you’re talking about women’s soccer--maybe.

As a UNC alum and fan, I think this attitude needs to change. Carolina is actually very good at many other sports. Women's soccer, since its inception, and baseball, in the recent past, are just a couple of examples.

Last Spring, a reader of TSB combined football and basketball and ranked ACC teams by winning percentage. That got me thinking, what if there were a way to compare all schools in all sports. Oh wait, there is. It's the Director's Cup.

In existence for almost two decades, the Director's Cup looks at all NCAA championship sports and ranks schools based on cumulative success. The final standings for this year were released at the beginning of July. Here’s a look at how UNC has stacked up in the competition in 17 seasons.


UNC Ranking

Next ACC School (Rank)



UVa (3), FSU (5)



UVa (8)



FSU (15)



Duke (11)



Duke (8)



Duke (4)



Duke (18)



UVa (19)



Clemson (26)



Duke (16)



UVa (13)



Duke (7), UVa (8)



UVa (13)



UVa (22)



UVa (19)



UVa (T-19)



Clemson (16)

*Denotes UNC was not highest ranked ACC school

To summarize the data, since 1993, UNC is the only school that has finished in 1st place other than Stanford. Carolina has finished in the top 5 nine times, and had top-10 finishes all but three of those years. They have been the highest ranked ACC school every year save three. What does this mean? That UNC Athletics has been consistently excellent compared to all Division I schools, and clearly dominant compared to ACC schools.

But look closer. The worst three seasons in the recent history of UNC basketball have easily been the '01-'02, '02-'03, and '09-'10, yet those weren’t the years Carolina finished out of the top 10. And success on the basketball court doesn’t always translate into a high final ranking. Take the '07-'08 season for example. The basketball team had the best ACC regular season record, won the conference championship, and went to the Final Four, but that was one of the years the program finished out of the top 10.

I realize that many college sports fans focus on football and basketball, and I can understand why, since those two sports are on TV and make all of the money. But for me, being a Carolina fan means following the ‘Heels in many other sports, along with basketball and football. And as the data clearly shows, Carolina is very good in many other sports.

So, to my fellow Carolina fans who are only paying attention to the ‘Heels in basketball and football, I recommend you check out all the other sports UNC Athletics has to offer. And to you ABCers out there who want to label UNC as just a basketball school, I say, "SCOREBOARD!" Unless, of course, you went to Stanford.