Orange Watch: Syracuse finishes ironic 44th in Learfield Director’s Cup standings

AD John Wildhack oversees a department continuing to produce successful teams in ACC and national competition
AD John Wildhack oversees a department continuing to produce successful teams in ACC and national competition

Item: Again displaying its all-around excellence competing in the 18 men’s and women’s programs it participates among its Power 5 and FBS opponents, Syracuse ended up No. 44 in the 2016-17 year end standings released last week. While that’s not as high as the record 21st place finish for the previous year, it none-the-less places the Orange programs inside the top 10 of the ACC’s 15 members.

When you look at some of the large state or land-grant schools, many with much larger athletic department budgets and lower academic standards than Syracuse, it’s certainly impressive to witness the success spread out among all the ‘Cuse programs when you see names like Tennessee, Iowa, Michigan State, even Clemson finishing behind SU in the Director’s Cup standings.

The Director’s Cup is now in its 24th year of awarding points to each program that a school fields with a maximum of 20 combined men’s/women’s sports, and success is measured by making postseason play and/or winning national championships.

While Syracuse certainly wouldn’t mind mimicking the athletic and academic successes of perennial Director’s Cup leader Stanford (23 straight years winning the Cup, with at least one national championship team for 41 consecutive years), it would realistically aim to be competing with ACC mates and fellow private universities Notre Dame (23rd place finish), Louisville (26th), and Duke (32nd).

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Of the 42 football programs (excluding Denver) that finished ahead of Syracuse, 18 have never played at the Dome including six members of the Pac 12 and SEC, respectively, and with the future scheduling philosophy necessitating the best opportunity to win a minimum of six games and get to a bowl game, it is unlikely that many of these top Pac 12, SEC, or Big Ten programs will be headed to play at Syracuse anytime soon, although there is room for a home-and-home scheduled with first-time Dome visitor Wisconsin (No. 16 in the Cup standings) in 2021 (SU plays at Madison in 2020).

There are also 18 programs of the 43 that finished ahead of SU in this year’s Cup standings whose basketball team has never played inside the Dome. Those teams are Stanford, Texas, Oregon, Texas A&M, California, Georgia, Arkansas, Washington (hint, hint), Baylor, Auburn, Minnesota, BYU, Colorado, Denver, Northwestern, Nebraska, Illinois, and Arizona State.

Based on the upcoming basketball season’s 13 game non-conference portion of the schedule, helped in part by playing in an exempt tournament (Miami-Hoophill Invitational) to get three extra home games and a neutral site meeting with a program the caliber of Kansas (five games played previously against the Jayhawks, but none in Syracuse), with the required balance between home/away/neutral court games plus the annual meeting with a Big Ten team, it appears unlikely that the caliber of team from that aforementioned list of 18 will be on a home schedule anytime soon.

The combined academic, athletic, and facilities pitch to Syracuse recruits has never been stronger heading into the fifth season as a member of the ACC.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.