LINCOLN — For the second straight year, Nebraska athletics had its lowest finish ever in the Learfield Directors’ Cup.
The 2018-19 final standings were released Friday morning, two days after the conclusion of the final NCAA sport of the year, baseball. Stanford was again the overall points champion. Five Big Ten schools finished in the top 20.
NU wasn’t one of them. The Huskers landed in 48th, four spots worse than last year, which had been Nebraska’s previous low. NU finished 12th among Big Ten schools. Only Purdue (55th) and Rutgers (82nd) finished lower. Last year, Nebraska finished ninth among league schools.
Nebraska thinks highly enough of the Directors’ Cup to attach a bonus structure to Athletic Director Bill Moos’ contract. The bonuses begin to kick in once the Huskers finish 30th or better in a given year. Nebraska last made the top 30 in 2016, when it finished 27th. The Huskers haven’t been in the top 25 since 2014.
The Directors’ Cup has existed since the 1993-94 season and gives points to each school that makes the postseason of a given sport. The national champion is awarded 100 points, and points descend incrementally from there. Schools can score points in up to 20 sports (10 men’s and 10 women’s) of their choosing. Schools with more sports, especially niche Olympic sports, tend to do better. Michigan is one of those schools and finished second.
This year, NU volleyball’s 90 points for a second-place finish in the NCAA championship was the school’s best performance. It’s also the only points Nebraska scored in the fall, as football missed a bowl game, and soccer missed the NCAA tournament. Nebraska historically does well in winter, and 2019 was no exception, with women’s bowling and men’s gymnastics finishing third nationally and Husker wrestling finishing 10th at the NCAA championships.
In the spring, Nebraska got points from Husker baseball and women’s track when javelin thrower Chase Wolinski, the Lincoln Northeast graduate who began her career as an unrecruited walk-on, finished fifth at the outdoor NCAA meet. The Huskers did not get points — and traditionally never do — from men’s and women’s tennis or men’s and women’s golf in the spring sports. Moos has switched out three of the four coaches in those sports.
In his 20 months on the job, Moos has switched out eight coaches. His hires of Scott Frost, Fred Hoiberg and Will Bolt — for football, men’s basketball and baseball — have received the most attention, but Moos wants success across the board.
“I like the coaches we have,” Moos said. “The ones that are new, the ones that have been here for awhile, it’s just a really, really good mix. All have the same focus and understand the charge and what is expected of them in a variety of different areas, from academics, to student-athlete retention, and also the scoreboard. We can win at Nebraska. It’s been proven, and we can win right and with the right talent.”
Nebraska won a single Big Ten title in 2018-19 — men’s indoor track and field — although its national finishes in volleyball and men’s gymnastics have equal or greater importance.
Moos wants all NU sports to at least finish in the top half of the Big Ten. In the 21 sports where Nebraska competes in the Big Ten, 12 sports did so.
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Previous NU finishes in the Director's Cup:
Other local schools
» Creighton finished 155th overall and sixth in the Big East. The Jays scored 50 points in baseball — half of their full-year total. Villanova was the highest Big East finisher at 76th. Once Connecticut joins the league in 2020, it will become a major challenger to Villanova.
» UNO finished 241st overall and fifth in the Summit League, which is traditionally dominated by Denver University and its powerful hockey and skiing teams.
» UNK finished 124th, Chadron State finished 136th and Wayne State finished 246th in the Division II standings. Nebraska Wesleyan finished 48th in Division III.
» In the NAIA standings, Morningside College finished eighth, Midland University finished 16th, Hastings College finished 27th, Concordia University finished 30th and Doane University finished 53rd.