The Learfield Director’s Cup was developed in 1995 as a joint effort between the NACDA and newspaper, USA Today to reward institutions with elite athletics throughout the entire department. Points are awarded based on each institution’s finish in up to 18 sports, nine women’s and nine men’s.
The second-place finish represents Emory’s best finish since the 2003-04 school year and marks the 12th time in the past 13 years that the school has recorded a top 10 showing. Only Williams College in Massachusetts had more points, winning the schools’ 16th Directors’ Cup in the past 18 years.
“This is a reflection of the incredible work by our students, coaches, staff and the overall support from the University,” said Emory Athletic Director Tim Downes. “Our president James Wagner believes that sports can change the way people act in a positive way. These successes allow me to talk about kids who are the best at what they do. The athletes are an example of what real value athletics can have in higher education.”
Emory scored points in 15 sports during last season’s campaign, including claiming the national title in women’s swimming and diving. The Eagles also finished as the runner-up for the women’s soccer and women’s tennis national championship in those respective sports and claimed 10 University Athletic Association championships, which tied the school record for most conference titles in a season. Emory’s team finish becomes even more impressive considering that it doesn’t have a football program like its counterparts such as Williams, Middlebury and Wisconsin-Whitewater, but the athletic department only has 18 intercollegiate sports, meaning that each sport, despite overall season finish, is scored for the Cup.
Individually, Emory had 48 All-Americas, including Breanah Bourque and Sydney Miles in women’s volleyball, Lauren Gorodestky for women’s soccer, Megan Light of softball, women’s tennis players Gabbie Clark and Emma Taylor and the duo of Elliot Kahler and Ian Wagner, who won the NCAA Doubles Championship for men’s tennis. The Eagles had nine men’s swimming All-America members including 200 meter butterfly stroke national champion Mille Douglas and 16 women’s swimmers, four of which won two relay national titles in the 200 meter and 400 meter freestyle relays, Nancy Larson, Anna Dobben, Renee Rosenkranz and Ann Wolber.
Emory has achieved this honor within Division III athletics which doesn’t reward athletic scholarships like its Division I counterparts within the state such as the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State University.
“The reality is that outside of full-ride sports such as basketball, football or volleyball, there aren’t many scholarships available for athletes at those schools,” said Downes. “Many of the sports have limited scholarships to split between as many as 20 to 40 players. Our philosophy as a Division III member is that a student can come here to get a top-notch education, play for championships and still be involved within the university and the community.”
Emory has been a staple of DeKalb County for generations and continues to be an integral part of the region through community service.
“When I arrived on campus six years ago, the program was in a great spot,” said Downes. “Our admissions department is proactive in finding students and once we get them to DeKalb County, it’s an easy sell because we’re in a great location that’s world renowned.”
The Eagles may not resume play on the field until August but plans are already in motion to improve the athletic department and the community in every aspect. The school has begun development of a program, along with the athletics and recreation department, which will incorporate modern innovations to assist all members of the Emory community that will be led by students and guided by professionals.
“We aspire to do things such as the athletic models of Stanford and Duke,” said Downes. “We focus on the academic and personal development of our student-athletes in an intentional way. I want Emory to reach a level where we’re looked at as a top athletic program.”