Vanderbilt’s defeat of Michigan in the decisive game of the College World Series marked the official end of the 2018-19 NCAA athletic calendar. We are now officially in the summer break before soccer, football, and the other fall sports start back up again in August.
Having lost back in the super regionals, the championship series of the college baseball season didn’t have much of an effect on UNC. What it did mean, however, is that we now have the final Learfield Director’s Cup standings, and know where the Tar Heels finished for the 2018-19 athletic year.
The Learfield Director’s Cup bills itself on its website as “the crowning achievement in college athletics.” It is a competition involving all the teams within an athletic department, awarding points for championships and high finishes for each sport. It’s basically just a way to measure what school had the best year in sports. It’s not shocking that North Carolina has had success in this competition over the years.
As for 2018-19, on the strength of a field hockey national championship, final four runs in women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s soccer, Carolina finished 10th. After the winter sports came to an end, UNC sat 21st, so it was an impressive showing from spring sports that got the Tar Heels back up into the top ten.
The Tar Heels won the initial Director’s Cup back in 1993-94, but haven’t again since. In fact, UNC’s win was the only time the Cup hasn’t been won by Stanford, a streak which continued this year. Carolina have finished outside the top ten just five times in the 26 athletic season the competition has been in existence. One of those times came in 2017-18, so the rally in spring sports season prevented the Tar Heels from missing out on the top 10 in consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
North Carolina’s 10th place was the fourth highest among ACC teams. Florida State, Virginia, and Duke were the three conference foes ahead of them, finishing seventh through ninth respectively.
As we’ve written about before, in some ways this was a disappointing year for UNC athletics: That 10th place finish could have been even better if not for some teams coming up agonizingly short. However, essentially being the 10th best athletic program in all of Division I is nothing to sneeze at. If history is any indication, we should expect the Tar Heels to have another strong finish in next year’s Director’s Cup, as we eagerly await the start of the next college sports year.