Sprawled across the office wall behind Dave Hart’s desk is a photographic mural. It depicts University of Tennessee athletes in various endeavors.
Everybody knows football drives the athletic department train. Everybody knows fixing football is Hart’s paramount job as athletic director.
But the mural on Hart’s wall and Hart himself embrace “comprehensive success” as the department’s mission.
Not just success in football and basketball, the revenue sports, but comprehensive success.
So how’s that coming?
For that answer we turn to the Director’s Cup standings.
You know the Director’s Cup, don’t you? It’s right up there behind the Heisman Trophy as the most revered trophy in college sports.
Just kidding. The Director’s Cup was born in 1993-94 to recognize the school that is the best across the board in all sports.
I doubt any school would swap a crystal football for the Cup, but if your mission is comprehensive success, it’s a fair gauge.
Points are tabulated for finishes in national championship competitions. Fencing counts as much as football. Stanford wins it every year. Florida is generally the SEC’s highest finisher.
Tennessee has been top 10 twice, finishing No. 7 in 2006-07 and No. 8 in 2004-05. There have been 11 other top-20 finishes.
Last year, UT ranked 33rd, easily its worst showing.
As for the current school year, 2012-13, the Vols and Lady Vols need a spring rally to climb up the standings.
With basketball concluded this week, the standings were updated to show Tennessee in 42nd place.
Doesn’t sound good, but it’s a big jump from a 29-way tie for 111th after the fall sports.
UT’s only fall points were the volleyball and soccer teams going one-and-done in their NCAA tournaments. At least they got there. That counted for something.
Football, of course, whiffed, as did both men’s and women’s cross country squads.
Women’s swimming was the biggest winter score, finishing third at the NCAA meet. Holly Warlick’s Lady Vols chipped in with their Elite Eight appearance in women’s basketball. UT’s men added points in swimming and indoor track,
Men’s basketball, like football, earned a goose egg. You either dance or you don’t score.
Also, you either ski or you don’t. Tennessee doesn’t and concedes 100 points in the standings to NCAA champion Colorado. Likewise lacrosse, gymnastics, rifle (which earned Kentucky big points), etc.
Spring is here, which is generally a good thing at Tennessee, Cup-wise.
It’s been several years since baseball contributed a single point. The wait might well continue.
Softball, however, will deliver a big score. The only question is how big. College World Series big?
Men’s tennis is ranked No. 10 in the polls. That’s not worth a point but it is indicative that the Vols will be a postseason factor.
Women’s tennis and both golf teams have potential to at least get on the board. Track and field isn’t what it used to be. Don’t look for a major boost there.
Rowing is so under the radar I won’t even hazard a guess if UT will score. Stanford’s probably good at it.
By some point in June we’ll have the final standings — and a better idea exactly how comprehensive is Tennessee’s success.
Mike Strange may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at Strangemike44.