USF earns best Sears Cup finish yet

USF achieved its best-ever ranking Tuesday in the annual race for theSears Directors’ Cup – a trophy presented to the best overall athleticdepartments in the country by the National Association of CollegiateDirectors of Athletics and Sears, Roebuck and Co.

By finishing 59th out of the 260 Division I schools that scored, USFalso had the best ranking among Conference USA schools and improved onlast year’s 94th-place finish. Prior to this season, the Bulls’ bestfinish was 74th in 1996-97.

“We’re very excited about the amount of slots that we have risen in theSears Cup rankings,” said Associate Athletics Director BarbaraSparks-McGlinchy, who is a member of NACDA along with Athletics DirectorLee Roy Selmon.

“And being in the top of Conference USA, going up against some othervery viable, very competitive institutions in our conference, of course,it’s outstanding for us.”

Twenty sports contribute to the Cup rankings in Division I, with 100points going to the winner of each sport. The Bulls compiled 314.5points on the strength of scoring performances in nine NCAAchampionships: men’s and women’s cross country, women’s volleyball,women’s indoor track, baseball, softball, men’s tennis, women’s golf andmen’s outdoor track.

Tara Quinn and Kerine Black represented USF at the women’s outdoor trackand field championship, but did not figure in the point standings.Sparks-McGlinchy deflected praise for the school’s accomplishment awayfrom the department?s administrators to the athletes and coaches whorepresented USF.

“The credit goes to the coaches and the student-athletes because they’rethe ones that did the work and got the job done. So they deserve thecredit,” Sparks-McGlinchy said.

“But USF can be very proud of its accomplishments this year.”

The Bulls earned a No. 61 ranking at the end of the fall season. Bothcross country teams earned 22 points each with 30th-place finishes atthe NCAAs, while the volleyball team collected 20 points after losing inthe first round of the NCAA Tournament.

USF fell all the way to No. 100 in the rankings released after thewinter season. Black was the only Bull to add to the school’s score,when she earned her fifth career All-American honor at the outdoorchampionship with sixth place in the long jump (36.5 Sears Cup points).However, the Bulls enjoyed a productive spring season that propelledthem to their final ranking of No. 59.

The women’s golf team, 23rd in the championships in its first appearancein a decade, earned the most of any USF team with 61 points. Jan ErikSalo and Jimmy Baxter together earned 53 points for the men?s outdoortrack and field teams, while the softball team garnered 50 points forits runner-up finish in the Regional Tournament in Alabama. The men’stennis team reached the second round of the NCAAs and earned 30 points,and the baseball team finished third in its Regional, earning 20 points.Sparks-McGlinchy said the focus of the athletic department throughoutthe year was on the competitiveness of the individual sports, ratherthan the Cup.

“What our goal generally is, is for our coaches and teams to be the bestthat they can be within different areas,” she said. “And we don?t lookat the Sears Cup in particular as a goal, but we know that that?s acarrot out there that is always – a goal to achieve.

“But we don’t put that out in the forefront. We look at winning ourcompetitions. We look at winning conference, and then going to theNCAAs.”

Sparks-McGlinchy commended the USF teams, including the ones that didnot qualify for NCAAs, for their unity during the year.

“A couple of our sports weren’t very far off, but they just didn’t quitemake it,” she said.

“In any given year it can go one way or the other, but I think, really,a lot of our teams came together and gelled at the same time. So that’show we were able to earn the points to get us to this ranking.”

The Bulls finished more than 1000 points adrift of Division I winnerStanford, which took the Division I prize for the seventh year insuccession. The Cardinal (1359 points) took the trophy on the strengthof 13 teams that finished in the top 5 nationally. They won the nationalchampionship in women’s tennis and placed second in men’s and women’sswimming and diving, women?s water polo and baseball.

The only other school to win the Division I trophy is North Carolina,which won the inaugural Sears Directors’ Cup in 1994.

Winners in the other divisions were UC-Davis in Division II, WilliamsCollege in Division III and Simon Fraser in the National Association ofIntercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).