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Where did Big Ten Schools Rank in Overall Athletic Success Over the Last Five Years?

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Thankfully for some schools, there are more than two sports to consider

NCAA Baseball: College World Series Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Yahoo’s Pat Forde published a ranking of every Power 5 football conference school in overall athletic success. Specifically, this is based on a rolling five-year average of each school’s finishing place in the final standings for the NACDA Director’s Cup, which has declared a champion for 2018-19 (Stanford, of course).

Let’s see how everyone in our great and historic league have done!

(Note: the ranking next to the team name is among P5 programs over 5 years, but the Director’s Cup standings that I talk about in the paragraphs are among all Division 1 schools, of which there are 295)

Rutgers Scarlet Knights: 63rd

Rutgers’ distant 82nd-place finish in this year’s Directors Cup was still a marked improvement from years past, and this was largely buoyed by their wrestling team producing two national champions. Other highlights included women’s rowing and field hockey, but wrestling will continue to lead the charge as men’s basketball fights towards relevance and football may or may not fight for anything.

Big Gap

There’s a substantial chasm between Rutgers and the rest of the field, so I spaced it out a little.

Iowa Hawkeyes: 50th

The Hawkeyes are on the upswing with a 38th-place finish in the DC this year pulling them well out of the reach of Rutgers. The top-scoring program was wrestling, which should delight Hawkeyes everywhere. Men’s gymnastics and women’s basketball helped build the margin as well. Notably, finishing 15 places ahead of Iowa State helped pull their five-year P5 ranking ahead of that of the Cyclones, who ranked 54th in this metric.

Purdue Boilermakers: 48th

Ironically, despite the best combined revenue sports season in recent memory, Purdue had its worst finish since 2015, with only golf and men’s track and field scoring points in the spring. Despite a big contribution from their top scoring program in men’s basketball, the overall athletic score this past year was the worst in the non-Rutgers Big Ten, coming in at 55th nationally.

Michigan State Spartans: 47th

With a 47th-place DC finish this year, the Spartans have been consistently in the top 50 with this year’s men’s soccer Final Four run and of course the men’s hoops Final Four run contributing the most.

Maryland Terrapins: 45th

Winning the National Championship in women’s lacrosse helped Maryland to a 40th place DC finish, which was their best since 2015. Men’s soccer and women’s field hockey did yeoman’s work as well, which was very mid-Atlantic of Maryland.

Indiana Hoosiers: 43rd

Like Maryland, Indiana also had a boost from this past year, but the Hoosiers had contributions from more sports. Both the men’s and women’s swimming programs carried the torch far, and men’s soccer placed in the top five. Indiana might not ever get over the hump in football, but in overall 5 year performance they totally eclipse Clemson, which is a mere 53rd among P5 teams.

Northwestern Wildcats: 41st

The sixth B1G school in the 41-50 range is also the smallest by attendance, so this is no easy feat. Despite somehow getting substantial points for football, the ‘Cats piled up most of their points in the spring with the help of the women’s lacrosse Final Four run. This yielded a 45th-place finish this year.

Illinois Fighting Illini: 37th (T)

Tied with blood rival Missouri, Illinois has had no contributions from football or basketball of any gender in the last five years, making what they’ve done elsewhere all the more impressive in light of the revenue-generating abilities of those sports for schools that are good at them. A disappointing season for many non-revenue sports led to a 43rd-place finish this year. While women’s volleyball and men’s gymnastics were the big producers this year, men’s golf has provided the biggest boost over the years. How Illinois continues to have decent athletic success without football or basketball mattering is beyond me.

Nebraska Cornhuskers: 36th

The ‘Huskers had their worst season in Director’s Cup history this year, but the good news is it was still 48th in the country. Women’s volleyball was the best performer, though wrestling acquitted itself well. Nebraska continues to invest in athletics, and the rebirth (or in basketball’s case, regular birth) of the revenue programs will boost everything else.

Minnesota Golden Gophers: 23rd (T)

A huge jump up to Minnesota, who finished 20th in the country this year thanks to massive contributions in the winter portion of the academic year, specifically with wrestling and women’s volleyball. As can be expected of Minnesotans, they didn’t do much during the spring; it’s winter where they’re most alive.

Wisconsin Badgers: 21st

Sorry, Minnesotans. Wisconsin finished 16th this year with a women’s ice hockey championship leading the charge. The Badgers were actually fourth in the fall portion thanks to great showings by both cross country teams and held on to that place through the winter session, falling to 16th due to a lack of spring sports production.

Penn State Nittany Lions: 9th

You’ll never guess what sport Penn State has scored the most points in over the last five years.

How much of this top 10 ranking can be directly attributed to Cael Sanderson’s wrestling behemoth? Probably a lot, but don’t sell short the top-flight women’s volleyball program, a football program that has been a steady producer, or men’s lacrosse. Penn State finished 13th this year despite scoring 3rd most in both the fall and winter sessions. If spring sports didn’t exist, the Big Ten would dominate this competition. Penn State also sponsors a huge number of fairly successful sports, garnering a second-place finish in fencing. They’ll maintain or improve this ranking as long as volleyball and wrestling don’t change a thing about how they’re run.

Michigan Wolverines: 7th

Unfortunately, my Michigan friends, you know what this means about the top finisher in the Big Ten.

But let’s celebrate the great things you’ve done! From a runner-up appearance in men’s basketball last year to consistently competitive wrestling and gymnastics programs to the steadily-productive football team, Michigan has a diverse array of successful sports teams. This culminated in a second-place finish in the Director’s Cup this year, which might as well be first place given how insurmountably dominant Stanford is in this contest.

Ohio State Buckeyes: 5th

Yep, despite slipping all the way to 12th in the DC standings this year, Ohio State has three national championships in the five-year time period the P5 rankings evaluated; two in volleyball and one in wrestling. The college football national title in 2014 isn’t an NCAA title but nevertheless scores many points in the DC standings. Isn’t it incredible what you can do when your football team has a history of being extremely good?