Jan. 10, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Led by the Rose Bowl Champion and Big Ten Champion football team, Michigan State jumped to No. 2 in the final fall Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. The Spartans collected 382.5 points after one of the best fall sports seasons in MSU history. Stanford is currently ranked No. 1 with 461.25 points.
The Learfield Sports Directors' Cup was developed as a joint effort between the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) and USA TODAY. Points are awarded based on each institution's finish in up to 20 sports -- 10 women's and 10 men's.
Michigan State has posted top-40 finishes in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup 13 out of the past 15 years, including a program-best 22nd finish in 1999-2000 after winning the men's basketball National Championship. Under the direction of MSU Athletics Director Mark Hollis, the Spartans have finished in the top 40 of the Directors' Cup five times (29th in 2008; 27th in 2009; 39th in 2010; 34th in 2012; 30th in 2013).
The football team, which won a school-record 13 games including a 24-20 victory over Stanford in the 2014 Rose Bowl Game, finished No. 3 in the final Associated Press and USA TODAY Polls and tallied 85 points in the standings. It marked MSU's highest finish in the national polls since 1966 when the Spartans ranked No. 2 in the AP and United Press International Polls with a 9-0-1 record. Michigan State (13-1) became just the third team in Big Ten history to win at least 13 games in a season (Minnesota, 1904; and Ohio State, 2002). The Spartans won their eighth Big Ten title in school history with a 34-24 win over then-No. 2 Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. MSU head coach Mark Dantonio was named the Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media.
The cross country program proved it was not just a powerhouse in the Big Ten conference, but also a program to be reckoned with on the national stage. The women's team battled to a sixth-place finish at the 2013 NCAA Championships, the highest finish since MSU placed fifth in 2007 and the third-best team finish in program history. The women also won their third Big Ten Championship in four years, and the fifth overall title in program history, led by Leah O'Connor who turned in a runner-up finish at the conference meet.
On the men's side, sophomore Caleb Rhynard represented the Spartans at the national meet by earning All-America honors with a 34th-place overall finish. He became the first Spartan to become an All-American since 1997. At the helm, director of cross country/track & field Walt Drenth was named Big Ten Women's Coach of the Year. It marked the third conference coach of the year recognition for Drenth, as he also received the honor in 2010 and 2011. The women's team collected 73.5 points in the Directors' Cup standings, while the men produced 27 points.
The men's soccer team added 73 points in the standings after reaching the Elite Eight in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1968. Through the historic tournament run, the team set a new MSU record by earning 14 wins, the most in a single-season. The Spartans were anchored by a stalwart defense, as MSU held off opponents to a record 13 shutouts on the season, tying the most in program history. With great success came great honors, as three Spartans received NSCAA All-Region honors led by Kevin Cope (First-Team), Jay Chapman (Second-Team) and Tim Kreutz (Third-Team). Also recognized by the NSCAA, head coach Damon Rensing was named the 2013 Great Lakes Regional Coach of the Year. In addition, Kylie Stannard was named 2013 Great Lakes Region Assistant Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
The volleyball team reached the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season and finished the year with a 23-12 record, producing 64 points in the standings. Senior Lauren Wicinski, a second-team All-American, capped a remarkable career in which she finished 13th all-time in the history of Division I volleyball with 2,424 career kills. She was a unanimous All-Big Ten selection, an Academic All-Big Ten pick, and a Senior CLASS Award finalist, while earning two in-season Tournament MVP honors. In addition, Kori Moster earned third-team All-America honors and Alexis Mathews garnered honorable mention accolades.
Field hockey finished the 2013 season with a 14-10 record, highlighted by a Big Ten Tournament Championship and a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight, to collect 60 points. The Spartans made their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament under head coach Helen Knull, who was named the NFHCA West Region Coach of the Year. MSU won 11 of its last 15 games, including a 6-1 record in the month of November, led by junior forward Abby Barker. Barker was selected as a third-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten, while Becky Stiles, Katherine Jamieson and Molly Cassidy were all selected second-team All-Big Ten.
The first Division I winter standings will be released Thursday, March 27.