Every Vol fan knows that Tennessee athletics has been in a down period for the last half decade or more. Football hasn’t been the only program hitting lows, though; men’s basketball, women’s basketball, and baseball have all struggled to varying degrees for at least the last five years. And that’s just Tennessee’ four major sports. That doesn’t include other sports such as golf, tennis, swimming, and others.
And when you add all that up, it doesn’t paint a pretty picture for Vols’ athletics.
Yahoo Sports recently averaged out every Power Five school’s rankings in the Directors Cup over the last five years (from the 2012-13 academic year to the 2016-17 academic year), and Tennessee’s average ranking in that time period is one of the worst in the SEC.
Out of the 65 Power Five schools in the rankings, Tennessee placed 36th. That spot puts them 10th in the SEC. Only Missouri (40th), Mississippi State (45th), Vanderbilt (51st), and Ole Miss (52nd) finished worse in the SEC. Florida has the best average of any SEC team, finishing second behind only Stanford in the average rankings over the last half decade.
The Directors Cup measures a school’s overall success in their varsity athletics. Points are awarded for a team’s finish in their respective championships and, in the case of college football, in a team’s finish in final season polls. The Cup combines the scores of an athletic department’s 10 best-finishing men’s and 10 best-finishing women’s teams in a given academic year. And as Vol fans are acutely aware, Tennessee hasn’t done well in either of those regards in most of their major sports over the last five years.
For the 2016-17 calendar, Tennessee finished 46th, one of their worst finishes in the Cup’s 24 years of existence. The Vols were strong contenders in the mid-2000s, finishing inside the top-10 in both the 2004-05 and 2006-07 cycles. Since then, however, Tennessee has struggled to finish well in the standings.
After North Carolina won the initial Cup in the 1993-94 calendar year, Stanford has won the award for 23 consecutive years. Stanford is able to do this, in part, because they have 35 qualifying varsity teams to be used for the Directors Cup’s scoring. For comparison, Tennessee has just 18 varsity sports, nearly half of what Stanford boasts. Elsewhere in the SEC, Florida and Alabama have 21 varsity sports, while Georgia has 19 and Vanderbilt has only 16 varsity sports.
It doesn’t take more than just common sense for a Vol fan to realize Tennessee athletics have been in a funk over the last half decade. But when you can see it on paper like this, the Vols’ recent decline is rather startling.