With 330 Division I schools in the U.S., picking the nation's top athletic program is a daunting task. For nearly two decades, the Collegiate Directors of Athletics have done so, using components like a "64-team non-bracket point system" to determine the Directors' Cup winner. (Stanford finished on top in '07-08 for the 14th consecutive year). But critics argue that its formula is extremely complicated. Moreover, Stanford will likely continue to dominate for years to come.
In an effort to be a little less complicated, we came up with a different scoring system, a three-pronged formula that puts the emphasis on national titles, top 30 finishes and conference championships. The results are in and Arizona State is No. 1, based on its three national titles (softball and men's and women's indoor track and field) and 12 top 30 finishes. The Sun Devils are followed closely by Stanford and UCLA (
Here's how we came up with the rankings. In step one, we awarded 10 points to each national championship team for 22 sports (11 men's -- baseball, basketball, cross country, Division I-A football, golf, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, tennis, indoor track & field and volleyball -- and 11 women's -- basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, indoor track & field and volleyball). We made a conscious effort to balance sports with regional biases. So, for example, men's lacrosse -- a predominately East Coast sport -- was countered with men's volleyball.
In step two, we narrowed our scope and evaluated success on the conference level for these 22 sports, awarding each school three points per sport for capturing a regular season conference title and one additional (or standalone) point for winning the season-ending conference tournament. Thus, a team that finished first during the regular season and then won the conference tournament earned four points.
(Note: When allocating points for football, if two teams shared the conference title, the team that won the regular-season meeting received the three points. This was the case in the Pac-10, where USC was awarded the points over Arizona State. Also, since not all conferences have championship games for football, we did not award a point to the winners of the conference tournaments that do exist. Thus, teams could only receive three total points for football. Further, golf, track & field and cross country yielded a maximum of three points because postseason play determines the regular-season champion.)
In step three, we examined the final rankings (using various NCAA-approved sources such as AP, coaches polls, etc.) for these 22 sports and awarded points to each school by multiplying the number of relevant teams with top-30 finishes by two.