With just the College World Series left, the 2022-23 college sports season is nearly at its end. That gives us a chance to look back at the season, both in general and in the lens of the Learfield Directors Cup.
The Directors Cup is a competition that decides what the best overall athletic department has been across all sports in a given athletic year. With just one event left to award points in, the nearly final standings have been released. While there’s still a chance for some movement, the North Carolina Tar Heels athletic program currently sit at eighth in Division I.
The bulk of the point the Tar Heels racked up this year came from the national championship wins in field hockey and women’s tennis. Beyond that, there was the heartbreaking runner-up finish in women’s soccer and a final four finish in men’s golf. While the CWS could seen another school jump up, it seems very likely that UNC will finish in the top ten of the Directors Cup standings for the 23rd time out of 28 years that the award has existed.
Yet, it still feels like UNC could’ve done way better. For one, there’s sports like women’s soccer and men’s golf who weren’t terribly far away from adding to the national championship tally. Of course, there’s also that whole men’s basketball thing. At this point, it’s clear that team was nowhere near as good as their #1 preseason ranking. However, if they had even played up to potential somewhat, made the NCAA Tournament, and maybe won a round of two, that alone could’ve been enough to get Carolina up to at least #6. Beyond that, another couple other better finishes and UNC easily could’ve returned to the top five after missing out last year.
North Carolina’s best ever finish in the competition came back in 1993-94, in the first ever year the award existed. Since then, they’ve finished runner up three times, as recently as 2008-09.
As for this year, Stanford has officially done enough to win the award for the 26th time. Their baseball team eliminated Texas in Super Regionals on Monday, and the Longhorns were the only school left in baseball that could’ve caught the Cardinal. Stanford has been the dominant team in the competition's history, but has been beaten out by Texas in the last two years.
Despite the potential for a higher finish, it’s been another pretty good year for the North Carolina Tar Heels athletic program.