The 2016-17 Learfield Directors’ Cup standings lack only baseball and it is complete enough that Stanford wins again.
The standings — which award points for NCAA competition in 10 men’s and 10 women’s sports — show what Wichita State faces in its move to the American Athletic Conference. The standings also show what the American is up against compared to the elite conferences.
The disclaimer is that these standings can mislead in some cases.
A school can build a strong all-around athletic department without necessarily doing well in these standings. A school can enjoy elite success in a few sports and climb these rankings. For example, hockey and lacrosse boost Denver into the top 50 nationally. It finished fifth in the Summit League in its all-sports ranking. In 2014, Loyola earned 100 points in men’s volleyball, 34.5 in men’s track and field and 15 in fall sports and finished No. 114 nationally, best in the Missouri Valley Conference.
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With that out of the way, as we expect, entering the American will push WSU into a group where the competition is, in general, better at the top and deeper.
Tulsa leads the 2016-17 standings for American schools at No. 68. No. 83 Cincinnati, No. 90 Connecticut and No. 99 South Florida are also in the top 100.
Wichita State leads the MVC at No. 137, followed by No. 141 Northern Iowa, No. 149 Southern Illinois and No. 177 Illinois State in the top 200.
The Shockers finished No. 98 nationally last season (second in the MVC behind UNI), No. 113 in 2015 (third in the MVC behind Illinois State and SIU) and No. 121 in 2014 (behind Loyola among MVC schools).
There two ways to look at this: WSU will face tougher competition to qualify for NCAA play. It also may enjoy some increased access to NCAA play because of tougher schedules.
The obstacle for all the American schools remains the elite conferences, which suck up most of the NCAA spots. No. 30 BYU (West Coast Conference) and No. 33 Princeton (Ivy League) are the lone schools in the top 50 not from the ranks of the Power 5 conferences.
The best finish by an American school is No. 30 Louisville in 2014. Louisville spent one season in the American before heading to the ACC.
The best finish by a current AAC member is No. 57 by UConn in 2014 and 2016.