Where Does Virginia Tech Rank Against Other ACC Athletic Programs?

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2015.10.17. Aerial Campus Photography, Virginia Tech. October Flyover.

It’s hard to judge an athletic program’s success. Is it by the number of championships they win? The fewest bad teams? Or how about the number of sports the athletic program sponsors?

All of these are valid criteria. So how about a chart that shows all of these criteria for each of the ACC’s teams, and their finishes in ACC-sanctioned sports?

In this article, we’ll present a chart showing where each school finished in the regular-season standings for each sport that the ACC officially sponsors. We’ll assign point values based on where a school finished in each sport: 15 points for 1st place, 1 point for 15th place, and a sliding scale in between. We’ll have to adjust points awarded for sports where fewer than all 15 schools participate, and we’ll explain that in detail later.

Explaining the chart

In order to assess each program’s success in each sport, each team was ranked based upon the official regular season ACC standings. The sports listed in the ACC’s official standings include baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball.

For these sports, no postseason results were used in determining their standings. In order to flesh out ties, each team’s overall record was used, and in cases where the overall records were identical, head to head matchups decided the tiebreaker. There were instances in football where teams in this situation did not play head-to-head, so strength of schedule was used.

Some sports do not have regular season results listed on the ACC’s web site. Those sports include men’s and women’s swimming and diving, men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s golf, and fencing. To determine these standings, the results of each sport’s ACC Championship tournament was used. There was a tie for fourth in men’s outdoor track and field between North Carolina and Florida State, so the point totals for fourth and fifth were split evenly between the two teams. There was also a tie between North Carolina and Wake Forest in men’s indoor track and field for 13th place, so those points were also dished out evenly.

Explaining the point system

This point system was devised in order to correctly assign points based on how many teams participate. Certain sports have a limited number of teams, such as a five or six. Other sports have the full complement of 15 teams. A sixth place finish in a six-team sport shouldn’t receive the same credit as finishing sixth in a sport with 15 teams. We created a sliding scale of points awarded in order to compensate for different numbers of teams participating in sports.

2015-16_ACC_sports_points_chart
Click on the chart for a larger version.

Here’s the master chart showing each school’s finish in all of the sports the ACC sponsors. A school’s placement is listed first, and the number of points awarded is listed second, in parentheses. For example, in men’s soccer (MSoc), in which 12 schools participate, Notre Dame finished 4th and was awarded 11.3 points, per the chart above.

2015-16_ACC_sports_results_chart
Click on the chart for a larger version.

The chart is sorted by average points earned per sport. In the table, Each sport’s first place finisher is in green, while the last place teams are in red. The teams with the lowest number of sports in the ACC are also in red, while the program with the largest number of ACC sports is in green.

There’s a lot of information in that chart, and here are the things that stood out to me.

  1. Is Virginia Tech athletics that bad in reality?

According to our points system, Virginia Tech ranks 11th out of 15 in the ACC in points per sport. Not only are they in the bottom half, Tech finished last in three sports this season (women’s lacrosse, women’s golf and baseball), while finishing first in just two (men’s outdoor track and field and wrestling). The Hokies averaged 7.4 points per sport according to our scale, which is quite a ways off from North Carolina, the top finisher at 10.6.

Just look at some of the most popular sports and you’ll see why Virginia Tech ranks so low. Football was the definition of mediocre this year, and has been for several years. Men’s basketball is on the rise, however was still just seventh in the ACC last season. Women’s basketball secured a winning record last season for the first time in almost a decade, but struggled in conference play, going just 5-11. Baseball had one of their worst seasons in program history, while softball stepped back a bit from last season.

One nugget that exemplifies the Hokies’ struggles in big sports: Virginia Tech was the only school in the ACC to miss the NCAA Tournament in both men’s basketball and baseball.

I think if you looked at the entire picture, including finances, facilities, etc., Virginia Tech would find themselves somewhere in the middle of the pack. The fan base is large and loyal, Tech’s athletic facilities and stadiums are some of the best in the ACC, and Director of Athletics Whit Babcock is widely regarded as one of the better AD’s in the country. But when you look at a numbers-based analysis like this, the Hokies are what they are, 11th place overall.

  1. As much as it might hurt to say, Virginia’s athletic program is better than Virginia Tech on the field.

It has been a long time since UVa. beat Virginia Tech in football, but they’ve got most of the other sports on lockdown. The Hoos are better in men’s basketball, tennis and swimming and diving. UVa. also sponsors two more sports than Virginia Tech. Virginia also doubled the Hokies in sports won, taking the regular season in four sports.

  1. This year at least, football is an indicator of a program’s overall success.

The top three teams in football in the ACC this past season were Clemson, North Carolina and Florida State. Those three teams are also all in the top four programs of these rankings.

The same goes for those teams near the bottom. Georgia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College were the three worst teams in football this season in the conference, and also occupy three of the bottom four positions in the rankings.

  1. North Carolina is the best athletic program in the conference, per this analysis.

The Tar Heels may not be the premiere football program in the ACC, but boy, are they well rounded. UNC won four sports this season in the ACC, made it to the ACC Championship Game in football, sponsors the most ACC sports of anyone in the conference and earned the most points per sport this season according to our system.

The Tar Heels are in hot water with the NCAA, and that cannot be ignored. North Carolina is accused of five Level I violations, as well as the dreaded “lack of institutional control”. The results of this investigation, and how the NCAA chooses to punish the Tar Heels, could hamper the program in any number of ways. That being said, Carolina puts results on the field.

  1. Boston College has a problem.

Boston College is a terrific academic institution, but the athletic program needs to be addressed. Boston College sponsors 20 ACC sports (and a few more non-ACC sports) and has the worst points per sport in the ACC. The Eagles were last in seven sports this year, and didn’t win an ACC game in either football or men’s basketball. They didn’t finish first in any sport either.

The Eagles sponsor 29 varsity programs, which is abnormally large when compared to successful athletic programs. As Chris Coleman noted in January, Florida State sponsors 18 teams, Clemson sponsors 17 and Louisville sponsors just 15.

I’m not sure cutting sports is the answer, but when your revenue is split among 29 teams, it’s going to hurt each and every one of your programs. Throwing cash at a sport won’t make it successful, but investing in coaching staffs and facilities is a start.

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24 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Great article and great way to rate the programs. However, this is only a one year snapshot. As you point out some sports teams are up others are down. This chart could change wildly from season to season. It would be interesting to take a 5 year sampling size to smooth out the yearly ups and downs and then we would really find out where we stand. My guess is that VT would rise a bit but not a whole lot.

    1. I would say go back to when VT joined the ACC to see if we are regressing, progressing (not likely), or staying about the same (most likely).

      Another interesting twist on this data would be to do a ton of number research/crunching to weigh the points for each sport based on the percentage of total athletics revenue each sport contributes at each school. Then you could tell which schools are getting the most bang for their buck.

      Good analysis, Ricky, despite how depressing it is. But it just goes to show us how badly we have had our heads in the football sand, at least until these recent mediocre seasons, ignoring the grand scheme of collegiate athletics. Hopefully this article, and ones similar to it, will inspire more Hokies to pledge to the 110% campaign!

  2. Excellent article! It stings a bit but objective facts are what they are. There are some good comments as well (along with some emotional rants). I think the biggest reason we’re in the situation we’re in is because, unfortunately, the top priorities for a majority of the VT fan base are:
    1) Win in football
    2) Beat UVA in everything
    3) A distant third: Win in men’s basketball
    4) Huh? Don’t bother me with Olympic and women’s sports…..

    Some of this “Old School” mindset is changing among the fan base, but slowly. Face it – VT is pretty conservative in most things. Fortunately we have an AD who grasps the Big Picture, has a long-term vision of the future, and is implementing that vision. I expect the 2020 version of this article to look quite different.

  3. Sorry, but not a fan of this article. I take special exception to your summary points #2 and #4. Not sure if you are just trying to piss off VT fans, but I totally disagree with these summary statements or conclusions. I would take beating UVA in football nonstop for the last decade (or is it two now) over UVA being highly ranked or winning a bunch of other sports that most people don’t give a #$%&@ about, so I totally call BS to the idea UVA has a better athletic program than VT. I’d take our athletic program over UVAs any day of the week.

    And give me a freakin break about UNC. Anyone who knows anything about ACC sports knows that UNC’s athletic department has been cheating for the last several decades so how can you write that they have the best program in the ACC. I call total BS to that statement!! IMO, UNC’s athletic program and UNC’s administration is a total embarrassment to the ACC and a disgrace to college athletics. UNC should be banned from playing sports for two decades just to make up for all their past sins so please don’t make ridiculous statements claiming they have the best program in the ACC “per any analysis”. That is laughable. As a VT fan, I don’t want our athletic department to be ANYTHING like UNCs…not in a million years. Again, I’d take VT over UNC any day of the week.

    The article’s data analysis just has so many holes in it, that it kind of reminds me of a Yahoo survey article. I particularly disagree with any writer that attempts to make such bold summary statements based on such skewed data or data with such small sample size. You are comparing apples to oranges to grapes to berries to bananas, etc. and then you make these summary statements that are only appropriate if you just had a basket of oranges. Not all ACC member schools have the same sports teams (which you note, but then you immediately remove a bunch of them). VT was #1 in Wrestling and #1 in Track and you threw that out the window and then make summary statements about VT sports that don’t make any sense if you had factored these sports into the evaluation. Next time, I would recommend just posting the table and then let your readers make their own conclusions or have online discussions about why VT is where it is on each sport or as a whole.

    And when you only use one year of data (essentially a snapshot of individual sports in the schools) and then follow it up with such bold claims, you are ignoring the fact that many sports are cyclical (or have ups and down), so it doesn’t make sense to offer such strong conclusions after only the snapshots. Using BC’s poor seasons in the past year isn’t really fair – and that leads you to your bold Summary Statement #5. Sure BC might be terrible for the next 10-15 years in all sports, but if you reviewed the last 10-15 years of data before making such claims I’d bet BC would fair much better. And what about Notre Lame? We already know VT finished middle of the pack in football and men’s basketball last year, but this one-year sample doesn’t really show any of the dramatic improvement in men’s bball that was actually one of the highlights of last season for VT. Different schools emphasize certain sports more than other schools – obviously. And then there is already the directors cup that gives points to other sports so we don’t really need another attempt at this.

    I’ll just end my rant with UVA and UNC suck…

  4. Certainly appreciate the article. Some good info. As far as the section about UVA’s athletic department being better than VT…well the proof is in the chart. However, I just don’t care at all that UVA won the ACC in women’s soccer, women’s golf, women’s swimming and men’s tennis. I certainly wouldn’t trade our wrestling program’s success and 1st place finish for those four combined. And I’d also rather win the men’s track and field championship than any of those 4. Obviously we’re the better football program, by far, despite the past 4 years…and the future looks very promising. And although we have been behind in basketball for a long time, again, buzz has revived/built the program to the point where it’s exciting, can’t wait for next season and we’re actually on the national radar. Would like to be better in baseball, but with Whit, I think that will come. Oh and UVA has a field hockey team and we don’t. Again, don’t care. They have men’s LAX and we don’t…I know that’s a growing sport and a lot of people would like for us to have a team- again, I just don’t really care. I don’t mean to come off as flippant or condescending, just my personal feelings. And I love when any of our sports teams do well. I don’t know, that 11th place figure in the chart just doesn’t mean much to me. So UVA has the superior athletic program on the field…eh, ok. They’re better at tennis and swimming and diving…eh, ok. Although I’m not from Virginia, so the UVA comparison just isn’t as big of a deal to me. Football, basketball and wrestling are in good shape. Good enough for me. But of course it would be nice to be great in everything. And it’s interesting to see where we stand.

  5. No tax payer money in the State of Virginia may be used towards athletics.

    We have had great success in football but that is the only sport where we have exceeded, above and beyond. And it is good that it happened to be football because it is the money steam engine that pulls the entire train.

    Virginia Tech is very fortunate that we have a huge base of living alum. But on the flip side we have only around 4% who contribute to the Hokie Club.

    Do we want to tap this long overdue opportunity to excel in athletics now that we have finally found a home in a good conference?

    We control our own destiny!

    p.s., I do not want votes like kindergarten stickers. I solely post here out of passion!

  6. It would be interesting to see that chart organized chronologically throughout the fall-to-spring seasons instead of alphabetically, just to see what teams do well at sports in what seasons. I know I could just look at the sports and think when they’re played, but I’m too lazy. Plus a chronological visual would be good.

  7. Mr. LaBlue thanks for your insightful article. Facts are facts even though these hurt. And I agree we should be in the top third of the ACC not bottom third when you consider support, funding ,etc. IMHO I think the big reason why we are in this situation is because of the previous Athletic Director. I know this issue has been discussed for a long time but the previous Athletic Director in his last couple of years set us back at least five years with his “walk down the hall hires” in men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, etc., (and according to some insiders I know that “walk down” the hall hire would have occurred in football had he been AD), to his cavalier (pardon the pun) treatment of fans, alumni, former athletes, etc. Granted he did improve facilities (or did he do enough for us to keep up)? But just because your athletic department finished in the black does not a department make as solidly evidenced by your article. The bad part about it is WE let him get away with it! I know that some will say “enough” but that legacy lives on. Being a history major and in a work position as a public administrator that reminds me almost every day the value of projects / planning done or not done previously makes me particularly sensitive to legacies. Thank goodness we have Whit now with what appears his innovative cutting edge and modern AD style that make him one of the best in the country. His hire have to begun to show great dividends in men’s basketball, and appear to be just the right picks in women’s basketball and football. We should all be ecstatic we have him. Wish we had him or someone like him (if that fit would have been possible) five – seven years ago. I see us being in a much, much better place in the coming year and years.

    1. Excellent comments describing how it occurred that VT is bottom third feeder. It will take a few more years to get out of the hole that the management of the Athletic Dept. left, particularly in coaching. Jim Weaver did a great job on facilities, and on financial management. Not so good on keeping up fan enthusiasm and increasing participation in the donating to athletics. VT is so far behind Clemson it is pathetic.

      VT still has some weak coaches, but it is going to take Whit a while to get those replaced. I think he has set a medium pace because of dollars and not wanting to shock the athletic department. The performance cannot be better than the coaches. A few other sports need hires like the Lacrosse hire— the coach has a helluva record. It will take a while to reach UVA levels in all sports. And, more money.

    2. What are people going to whine about 10 years from now? Weaver? Come on man, let it go. We compete against schools that get state money for facilities, we have poor fan base financial support, unc cheats like a dogs playing poker and you insist our status is solely due to an AD whose been gone for two years.

      Tech fans simply need to buck up…..literally and put there money where their mouth….or key board is.

  8. UNC cheats, and therefore, all their sports should be vacated. And I don’t care what the “score” is…VT is #1 in people.

  9. Thanks for putting together this perspective piece. Your big picture thesis of where VT Athletics are positioned within the ACC is correct, if equal weight is given to all sports.

    I do want to point out that you left off Cross Country. It represents 2 of VT’s 20 sports, while track has both men & women’s indoor and outdoor seasons, it is also 2 of twenty.

    Here are the 2015 ACC X/C results: http://www.theacc.com/page/championship_c-xc

    Men finished 4th, Women 8th.

    As a former X/C, Track scholarship athlete from the mid-90s, I can tell you that the AD has come a LONG way and will probably finish Top 40 this year in the Director’s Cup Standings and 9th in the ACC. Football, Baseball, M/W Basketball, Softball, M/W Golf held us back this year.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out! I’ll be sure to include them in next year’s piece.

  10. Would like to see how this was after the first 5 years in the conference. We were a house of fire then. Sadly, Weaver’s health didn’t help, as he was reluctant at going after good coaches. Whit is focused and will improve our standing. I just hope we will not become a “stepping stone” assignment for coaches.

  11. Va Tech is 9th out of the 15 ACC schools in the Learfield Directors Cup. We place ahead of Clemson, Miami, BC, Wake Forest, Ga Tech and Pittsburgh.

    1. Correct, but Clemson only has 17 sports. So there’s no way they can score a lot of points. They’ve decided to focus on being good at a few things, rather than spreading themselves out over a lot of things.

      1. And this is a good Thing?May be Clemson bag men do have a limit on what they can spend.Or,it could be after they run out of fingers and toes they are at a lost.

  12. Thanks for the hard work putting this together! Do you not think that football and men’s basketball (and to a lesser extent baseball) should receive more weight in this analysis? These sports generate the most money and have the most TV exposure.

    1. while I think most fans place those sports as a priority, I don’t think the success of 2 sports adequately reflects the success (or failure) of an athletic department any more than Olympic or other non-revenue sports when put together as a whole.

      1. Agree. It’s even possible that a school might choose to emphasize dominating in sports other than football/bball because they struggle to compete well in those two sports due to size, admisision standards, etc..

    2. That was discussed, for the reasons you mentioned. However, giving two sports more weight than others just didn’t seem right. We did our best to give an overall view of each athletic department strictly through performances on the field, and trying to give each sport equal weight seemed like the best choice.

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