In what many would label a successful year for University of Virginia athletics, the Cavaliers were ranked among the top 25 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup competition for the 13th consecutive school year.
On the other hand, UVa’s 21st-place finish was its lowest since 2006, when the Cavaliers were 26th.
Virginia won ACC championships in women’s swimming, men’s basketball and rowing in 2017-18. In men’s basketball, the Cavaliers won both the regular-season and tournament championships for the second time in school history.
In the Directors’ Cup rankings, points are awarded based on NCAA Tournament participation. In Virginia’s case, a loss to Maryland-Baltimore County in the first round of the NCAA Tournament counted as a tie for 32nd in the country.
The UVa men, who were No. 1 in the country for the last five weeks of the regular season, had fewer Directors’ Cup points than the UVa women’s basketball team, which won a first-round NCAA Tournament game but did not have a comparable regular season.
Getting past the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament was worth 50 points for UVa. The men got 25 points for making the field. Men’s basketball also was outscored by wrestling and men’s and women’s indoor track and field in NCAA competition.
As opposed to men’s basketball, two perennially strong UVa teams — baseball and men’s tennis — did not score well in the Learfield Directors’ Cup ranking because they had not performed well.
Both had won NCAA championships in the past five years.
Ultra-successful men’s tennis coach Brian Boland resigned to take a job with the U.S. Tennis Association and, when that didn’t work out, ended up at Baylor. However, the biggest change in the athletic program was the hiring of new athletic director Carla Williams to succeed Craig Littlepage, who retired.
Following is the annual Doughty ranking of the UVa programs, based on the overall well-being of the programs going into the 2018-19 school year:
1. Men’s basketball — It’s been easy for critics to pick on Virginia, but the Cavaliers are in everybody’s early Top 10 for 2018-19. UVa returns four players who started at least 34 games, with second-round NBA Draft pick Devon Hall the only major casualty. If transfer Braxton Key from Alabama wins his appeal for immediate eligibility, UVa’s talent — hardly ever praised nationally — would rank with anybody’s. (2017 ranking: 1)
2. Rowing — Virginia’s women won their ninth straight ACC title and 18th overall under Kevin Sauer, who has more conference championships than any other UVa head coach. … A seventh-ranked UVa team finished fifth at last spring’s NCAA championships. (2017 ranking: 6)
3. Women’s soccer — Ranked No. 7 in the preseason. UVa is off to a 3-0 start, outscoring its opponents 8-1. … Climbed as high as No. 3 in 2017 poll but slumped to 11th. … Recruiting class was ranked fourth nationally (2017 ranking: 4)
4. Swimming — Women won the ACC championship, the first for a Virginia team during the 2017-18 school year. Defeated runner-up Louisville by 200 points, then finished ninth at NCAAs. … Also under first-year coach Todd DeSorbo, men were third in ACC and 29th at NCAAs. (2017 ranking: 13)
5. Men’s soccer — Ranked eighth in the preseason poll. … Climbed as high as 10th in 2017 rankings. … Finished 12-4-5 after second-round NCAA loss to Fordham. … Lost shootout with Wake Forest in scoreless ACC title game. (2017 ranking: 3)
6. Baseball — Failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Brian O’Connor’s 15 seasons as head coach. A 29-25 finish (12-18 in ACC) marked the first time O’Connor had won fewer than 38 games. … UVa’s incoming class is ranked 13th in the country by perfectgame.org. … Slugger Cam Simmons returns after missing 2018 season. (2017 ranking: 5)
7. Men’s tennis — Never got higher than 22nd in rankings under new head coach Andres Pedroso but don’t expect the program to be down for long. … Virginia has made 18 straight trips to the nationals, but lost 4-0 to Columbia in last year’s second round after falling in the ACC quarterfinals. (2017 ranking: 2)
8. Field hockey — Ranked as high as No. 3 in the country last year. … Opened this year at No. 7. … Gone are top two scorers from a year ago, Tara Vittese and Pien Dicke. Vittese was a senior and Dicke opted to play professionally in her native Holland. … Nine-member recruiting class includes another Dutch national-team member. (2017 ranking: 8)
9. Men’s lacrosse — Ranked as high as No. 6 in the country last year and made the NCAA Tournament in second season under coach Lars Tiffany. … Season-ended with losses to Notre Dame in ACC final in Charlottesville, 17-7, and at Loyola in a first-round NCAA game, 14-12. (2017 ranking: 15)
10. Football — Made a jump last year and got fans excited with a 40-36 win over Georgia Tech that lifted the Cavaliers to bowl eligibility at 6-3. Four resulting losses were a downer, especially a 49-7 drubbing by Navy in UVa’s first bowl trip in six years. Transfer quarterback Bryce Perkins will be the key. (2017 ranking: 18)
11. Women’s lacrosse — Ranked as high as sixth in the country before dropping to 12th. Lost eight of its last 10 games to go 10-10. … Last two regular season losses were to James Madison and Virginia Tech before the Dukes beat UVa in NCAA Tournament. UVa previously was 22-1 against the Hokies and 33-12-1 versus the Dukes. (2017 ranking: 14)
12. Women’s basketball — UVa got to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in coach Joanne Boyle’s tenure, but Boyle elected to resign for personal reasons after a 19-14 season. She was replaced by former Texas assistant Tina Thompson, a former college and pro standout who welcomes back a veteran group that includes 6-9 junior Felicia Aiyeotan. (2017 ranking: 17)
13. Women’s golf — New coach Ria Scott from Oregon takes over team that finished 22nd in NCAAs under Kim Lewellen, who resigned to become the head coach at Wake Forest after 11 seasons at UVa. Her teams made nine NCAA appearances and won two ACC titles. UVa did not sign a recruit for this coming season. (2017 ranking: 12)
14. Men’s golf — One of UVa’s most stable programs is coming off its best NCAA finish under 14-year head coach Bowen Sargent, whose 2018 team included the individual ACC champion, Thomas Walker, who has one more year of eligibility and a veteran cast to support him. (2017 ranking: 9)
15. Women’s tennis — Virginia rose to No. 23 under new head coach Sara O’Leary, before losing to host South Carolina 4-0 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That was an improvement over a season-ending No. 43 ranking in 2016. (2017 ranking: 16)
16. Wrestling — A 31st-place finish at the NCAA Tournament provided some Directors’ Cup points for the Cavaliers, but the program has only five ACC championships in its history, the most recent in 2015. The incoming class includes six wrestlers ranked in the top 20 nationally in their weight class. (2017 ranking: 11).
17. Cross Country — Bryan Fetzer is the head coach for men’s and women’s track and field and cross country, but both have separate programs. Former Eastern Kentucky coach Megan LaVoie was named UVa’s head coach on Aug. 20, exactly one month after Cal Poly's Priscilla Bayley had taken the job, only to resign for personal reasons. Men finished fourth at ACC championships and 16th in the NCAA championships, second to Syracuse among ACC schools. (2017 ranking: 10)
18. Track and field — Men finished 43rd at the NCAA team competition after being ranked as high as 23rd. UVa women finished sixth in the ACC outdoors and ninth indoors. (2017 ranking: 7)
19. Volleyball — Some improvement is in sight after a 7-24 season in 2017 under new head coach Aaron Smith, previously an assistant under Dennis Hohenselt, whose last team was 7-25. A positive sign was a recent exhibition victory over a JMU team that was 23-6 last year. (2017 ranking: 20)
20. Softball — Haven’t been ranked in years. Finished 12-41 overall and 3-21 in the ACC under second-year head coach Joanna Hardin. Team is 71 games under .500 since last winning record in 2012. Improved facilities on the way. (2017 ranking: 19)