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April 25, 2013With its national championship in men's gymnastics over the weekend, Michigan's athletic department moved into first place in the Director's Cup following the conclusion of the winter season, and is poised to take a run at Stanford for the overall title.
The Wolverines finished the winter with 914.25 points, scoring in eight of 10 winter sports, and sit just barely ahead of the Cardinal (902.75 points).
Knocking off the 18-year reigning champion will not be easy; over that stretch, Stanford has averaged 1,293.38 points while during the past 13 years, when the scoring system changed, the champions have averaged 1,406.40 points.
U-M is one of five programs nationally to record at least 10 top-five finishes since the Director's Cup (formerly the Sears Cup) inception in 1993-94, tying North Carolina with 10. Penn State and Ohio State represent the next best in the Big Ten but have only four top-five performances.
Michigan's best effort was a second-place showing in 2003-04, and like this year, the Maize and Blue led after the winter term. However, a poor spring season doomed the Wolverines, who scored in just three - softball, women's tennis and rowing - of 10 eligible sports.
This spring, U-M is poised to make the NCAA field in softball, men's and women's tennis, rowing and women's track, and could make the postseason in baseball, water polo, men's track and with both golf teams.
Regardless of how it turns out, Michigan is enjoying a special year, earning a pair of national titles for the first time since the 1997-98 campaign Andy Reid noted earlier this week. This year alone, four U-M programs have finished among the top-three teams nationally, with men's gymnastics and men's swimming and diving placing first, men's basketball earning runner-up honors and volleyball coming in third after losing to eventual national champ Texas in the Final Four. Had John Beilein's hoops team bested Louisville, Michigan would have won three NCAA titles in the same sports year for only the third time ever (1933-34 & 1947-48).
"Ultimately, you have to attribute our success to terrific coaches and really talented student-athletes," athletics director David Brandon said. "The job our coaches have done recruiting and preparing our athletes to compete at the highest level has been outstanding, and what maybe goes unnoticed is our academic staff has told me this is a banner year for our student-athletes academically also.
"We still have a number of spring sports competing with a chance to win Big Ten titles and succeed nationally also."
Though his hockey team did not make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 23 years, coach Red Berenson is taking pride in the success of his colleagues and their teams.
"It's win-win. It's all positive for Michigan," he said. "I know how great it made us feel when we were doing our part, and everyone is adding to the Michigan tradition. It's like we're all players on the same team and when one player, men's gymnastics or men's swimming, wins, and even the cheerleading program, we all feel like champions.
"I just think it's great for Michigan."
This year has been incredible for the Maize and Blue, but the first four years of the new decade have been especially rewarding; in addition to this year's crop, men's gymnastics won the national title in 2010, men's soccer made the Final Four in 2010, ice hockey finished runner-up in 2011 and rowing took second in 2012.
"You don't take it for granted," Berenson said. "Look how hard every team competes. We're going to work hard in the summer to have a good team in the winter. And then we work hard all winter to try to have a good ending. And every other team does the same thing. So much hard work goes into this and it's gratifying to see it payoff."
Here is a look at Michigan's Director Cup tally when it placed second in 2003-04 and where the department currently stands this year.