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Duke eyes strong Director's Cup finish

The men’s and women’s basketball players probably will not have the Director’s Cup on their minds this weekend, but with trips to the Final Four on the line, their success could help Duke to its best Cup finish ever.

At the end of the fall season, Duke was ranked fourth in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Director’s Cup, a competition that awards points based on NCAA Championship results in a school’s top 10 men’s and top 10 women’s sports over the course of an academic year.

Duke topped the rankings for the first time in history Dec. 16, after six championships had been completed. In the 11 years since the NACDA first awarded the cup, Duke has finished in the top 15 in the final standings only once—a seventh-place finish in 1999.

Duke’s results, however, have improved each of the last three years, and with the strength of the school’s spring sports, the Blue Devils have a chance to eclipse the 1999 mark. In addition to the basketball teams, both of Duke’s tennis and lacrosse squads rank in the top 10, the women’s golf team is No. 1 in the nation and the men’s golf team is ranked 11th. Championship results account for all the points, so it will all come down to the postseason.

“I do think it is very difficult to win it,” Athletic Director Joe Alleva said after the fall rankings were released. “I do think we can be in the top 10.”

A Final Four appearance for either basketball team is worth 83 points and a national title in any sport is worth 100. As of Jan. 11, Duke had 327 points and trailed first-place Notre Dame by only 10.

When the latest standings of the Cup come out today, Duke will almost certainly have dropped out of the top five. Fencing, wrestling, indoor track and field and skiing are the sports that have completed their seasons, but the Blue Devils will not pick up many points.

Duke only competes in 25 of the 31 sports, although most schools do not field teams in all of the point-scoring programs. The University also does not award the NCAA-maximum number of scholarships in some of its programs.

“It is very difficult to compete with schools like Stanford, Ohio State,” Alleva said. “[They] have many more sports than we do and fully scholarship them all.”

Duke’s varsity athletic teams have combined for just six NCAA championships—three in men’s basketball, two in women’s golf and one in men’s soccer. Stanford, the university to which Duke is most often compared athletically, recorded six titles in 1996-1997 alone and has won 46 since 1991. The Cardinal has also won the last 10 Director’s Cups.

But Duke has recently invested more in sports it did not fund as significantly in the past. Of the four programs that scored points this fall—field hockey, women’s cross country and men’s and women’s soccer—the field hockey and women’s cross country programs have been upgraded in recent years and each finished as the national runner-up in 2004.

The University now awards numerous scholarships in women’s cross country and hired field hockey head coach Beth Bozman two years ago in hope of building the program into a national power. The former Princeton coach has produced results, leading Duke to the NCAA finals in each of her two seasons.

“I couldn’t be more proud of field hockey,” Alleva said. “Beth Bozman has done a remarkable job of turning that program around.”

Jake Poses contributed to this story.

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