With the conclusion of the College World Series earlier this week, the 2020-21 college sporting year has come to an end. While it’s been a weird one on the whole, a non-weird part of it was that it was another fairly successful one for North Carolina Tar Heels athletics.
The final standings of the Learfield Directors’ Cup were released on Friday, and UNC finished fourth in the nation, the school’s highest finish since getting second place 2008-09.
The Directors’ Cup is a competition which measures the all-around success of an athletic program in a given year by award points for where all the different sports finish in their respective national championship tournaments/meets. Carolina has been a regular contender for the award, as this was their 22nd top ten finish since the competition began back in the 1993-94 sporting year. UNC’s best ever finish came in that inaugural year, as they won it.
The strongest performance from this year obviously belonged to the Tar Heels’ field hockey team, who brought home their third-straight national championship back in May. Beyond that, UNC had five others sports make the final fours of their respective tournaments. Men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and women’s tennis all made it to the national semifinals in their NCAA Tournaments, helping the Heels rack up points and finish fourth. In total, ten Carolina teams finished in the top 20 in the nation in all their various sports.
Fourth was good enough to finish as the top team in the ACC, with the next closest conference opponent being Virginia, who finished 11th. The only athletic programs to finish ahead of the Tar Heels were Stanford, Michigan, and this year’s winner Texas. UNC finished 125.75 points behind the winning Longhorns. Had Carolina been able to convert some of those final four appearance into championships, especially in women’s tennis where Texas ended up winning the title, they might’ve been able to squeak out the win.
The Longhorns were a first time winner of the competition, and actually broke a long streak from Stanford. After UNC won it in the first ever year in 1993-94, the Cardinal rattled off 25 consecutive wins until Texas finally ended that this year.
Since their inaugural win, UNC have been one of most regular top ten programs, and this is the ninth time they’ve finished fourth of better. Finishing behind the only other winners of the competition is far from bad. While there certainly some disappointments along the way, it’s hard to say it was anything but another good sporting year for North Carolina.