What the Gophers athletics department lacks in top-end success, it makes up for in depth.
In the April 19 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup Division I standings, the University of Minnesota ranked ninth out of the 346 Division-I programs in the NCAA.
With the recent struggles of the football team and men’s basketball (and until this year, men’s hockey), the Gophers other sports buoyed the department in this year’s standings.
The Big Ten had five schools represented in the top-10. Minnesota ranks fourth in the conference behind Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, respectively.
The Directors’ Cup is run by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and is a ranking system that awards points evenly among an institution’s sports for performance. The more sports a school has, the higher potential score.
However, NACDA only includes 20 sports in its rankings – to avoid fairness issues with programs like Ohio State, which has 36 sports.
Minnesota’s 25 varsity sports are enough to be tied for fourth in the Big Ten. But success in all sports does not necessarily equate to a flexible budget.
Minnesota’s $79 million in athletics budget only ranks eighth in the Big Ten, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“Obviously money helps,” Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “But, I don’t think money guarantees greater success.”
While the most visible sports tend to bring in more revenue; Maturi said the success of the Olympic sports, like wrestling and track and field, doesn’t impede the success of programs like men’s basketball and football.
However, he said he’s aware most people would rather have the success in the revenue sports.
“I know some people feel that they would trade where we rank and how we are for a few more football wins,” he said. “But, I think we need to be proud of our overall athletic accomplishments.”
The Gophers received many Directors’ Cup points for sports like men’s and women’s swimming and track and field, but the bulk of the points came from the women’s hockey national championship, wrestling’s second-place national finish and the men’s hockey trip to the Frozen Four.
Without many points in men’s basketball and football, Maturi said it’s still impressive to be ranked in the top-20 out of the 346 D-I schools.
“That means we’re spending our dollars pretty frugally and that we’re having success with the programs that we’ve had,” Maturi said.
Minnesota has been ranked in the top-15 in the Director’s Cup final winter rankings annually since Maturi’s arrival in 2002. NACDA will release the final 2011-12 winter standings on April 26.
Gymnastics is the only winter sport left to award points in, and Minnesota’s fifth-ranked men’s team is set to begin the NCAA championships Thursday. So it is unlikely the Gophers will fall out of the top-15 when the final winter standings are released in a week.
“I think that says something good about the commitment we’ve made,” Maturi said.