UK Shatters School Record with 11th-Place Directors' Cup Finish
June 27, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Finishing in the top 15 of the national all-sports standings would not be easy, especially not so quickly.
By setting the goal to break into the upper echelon of college athletics departments in November 2008, Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart wanted to challenge student-athletes, coaches and staff. They responded, and UK Athletics reached the top 15 a year early.
UK finished 11th in the final standings of the Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup released on Friday, besting last year’s record No. 25 finish by a wide margin and ticking off one item on Barnhart’s 15 by 15 by 15 Plan.
“I want to congratulate and thank everyone who made this remarkable year possible,” Barnhart said. “Our student-athletes, coaches and staff have worked so hard to establish UK among the best athletics departments in the nation and the Big Blue Nation has been there every step of the way.”
Final standings were tabulated after the conclusion of the College World Series this week. Adding in baseball’s regional final appearance, UK moved up two spots from 13th and just 5.75 points outside the top 10. UK ranks third among Southeastern Conference schools, trailing only No. 2 Florida and No. 10 Texas A&M. Stanford came in first for the 20th time in the 21-year history of the Directors’ Cup.
Strong contributions across the board landed UK in the top 15. Eighteen of UK’s 22 sports scored points by advancing to NCAA championship play, led by men’s basketball (second for 90 points), rifle (third for 85) and softball (fifth for 78). All told, seven teams finished in the top 10 for their respective sports and 15 in the top 20. See the attached chart for complete finishes by sport.
“We set out to build a comprehensive athletics department and this year was a great step in that direction,” Barnhart said. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but our work is far from done. Our goal is to become the best program in America.”
UK has been trending upward in Directors’ Cup standings throughout Barnhart’s tenure, particularly over the last four years.
Prior to his arrival in 2002, UK’s average finish was 40.1 and its best finish of 26th came in 1996-97. After coming in 50th in Barnhart’s first season, UK has improved in the standings in all but one year, culminating in an average finish of 21.6 over the last three seasons. Only twice before Barnhart came to Lexington did UK finish in the top 30 of final Directors’ Cup standings. UK has now accomplished the feat four times in five seasons.
The surge in Directors’ Cup standings has coincided with unprecedented achievement in the classroom for UK student-athletes. Scholarship student-athletes have now reached Barnhart’s goal of a 3.0 department-wide grade-point average set as part of his 15 by 15 by 15 Plan in four consecutive semesters, most recently with a record 3.218 GPA this spring.
With the goals of a top-15 Directors’ Cup finish and a 3.0 GPA now met, that leaves only Barnhart’s mark of 15 conference or national championships. UK currently sits at 11 with a year to go.