The NACDA, the United States Sports Academy and USA TODAY award the Cup, which has been in existence since 1996, annually. Last year, 430 schools competed in Div. III. (NAIA, Div. I and Div. II colleges also contend for their own Cups.) Amherst has placed in the top-15 every year, while Williams College has won the Cup for eight of the nine years of competition. For the 2003-2004 school year, Amherst had 686.75 points less than 50 points behind the fifth-place finishe. Williams’ score of 1081.75 was over 250 points ahead of the second-place finisher. In fourth place was Middlebury College, the only NESCAC school besides Williams to finish ahead of Amherst.
A school earns points based on the performance at the national level of its top nine men’s teams and top nine women’s teams over the course of the year. The further a team advances in national competition, the more points the team earns for the school. A number of teams contributed to Amherst’s success last year, including the women’s soccer, cross country, swim tennis and lacrosse teams as well as the men’s swim and basketball squads. These teams all advanced in NCAA Tournament play.
Amherst’s sixth-place finish showed remarked improvement from 2003, when the school finished 11th. Amherst’s best finish ever, in fourth place, came in 1999.
No ranking system is perfect, and this one is no exception. Some Amherst teams do not participate in NCAA competition for academic reasons, and many successful teams do not qualify for national tournaments despite excellent records.
“I think it does mean something,” said Director of Athletics Peter Gooding. “It attempts to quantify the quality of programs, but I have great reservations about [the Cup competition] because it only measures quality by one criterium: namely, success in the NCAAs.” Gooding added, “Some of the very best teams I’ve ever coached haven’t had winning records.”
Just as the College attempts to stay above the competition for a U.S. News and World Reports ranking, Amherst has no plans to attempt a future run at the Directors’ Cup. Winning it has never been a priority. “I hope it won’t ever be,” said Gooding.