Top conference in all college sports? Pac-12 or SEC, depending on how you measure

Mike Huguenin
Yahoo! Sports

We're in the dog days of summer now, with no college sports to keep ourselves occupied.

The final NCAA title of the season was decided last week, when Arizona won the baseball championship. That makes this a good time to look back at the 2011-12 academic year and try to decide which league was the best overall.

The Directors' Cup method

Stanford won again, for the 18th consecutive year.

The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics annually presents the Directors' Cup to "the best overall collegiate athletics program in the country." Schools are allowed to count their 20 highest-scoring sports – 10 men and 10 women. Stanford finished in the top 10 in all 20 sports and won two titles – women's soccer and women's water polo.

Florida was second (the school's 28th consecutive top-10 finish), UCLA third, Ohio State fourth and Florida State fifth (the school's highest-ever finish).

The Pac-12 had three teams in the top 10, with seventh-place USC joining Stanford and UCLA. The ACC (FSU and No. 8 North Carolina), the Big Ten (Ohio State and No. 10 Michigan) and the Big 12 (No. 6 Texas and No. 9 Texas A&M) had two teams in the top 10. Florida was the only SEC team in the top 10.

The Pac-10 had four of the top 11, five of the top 19, six of the top 24 and eight of the top 31. The ACC had four of the top 16 and five of the top 27. The SEC had one of the top 12, seven of the top 29, eight of the top 33 and nine of the top 36. The Big Ten had three of the top 12 and six of the top 26. The Big 12 had three of the top 14 and four of the top 25, but the next Big 12 team was 42nd. The Big East had had just one in the top 31 (Notre Dame, at No. 17).

The highest-ranked non-Big Six school was the Ivy League's Princeton, at 39th. The other non-Big Sixers in the top 50 were New Mexico (Mountain West) at 41st and BYU (West Coast) at 43rd.

The lowest-ranked Big Six school that plays football was the Big East's Pittsburgh at 131st. The lowest-ranked school that plays FBS football was Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt) at 242nd.

The winner: The Pac-12. Two-thirds of the league's teams were in the top 31. That edges the SEC, which had two-thirds of its teams in the top 33.

The Capital One Cup method

ESPN and Capital One Bank awarded the Capital One Cup for the second year. Points are awarded for a top-10 finish in NCAA championships and final official coaches' polls. Unlike the Directors Cup, which doesn't separate by gender, there are two Capital One Cups – one for men's programs and one for women's programs.

Schools get more points for top finishes in what the organizers call "Group B Sports." For men, those are baseball, basketball, football (FBS and FCS), lacrosse, outdoor track and soccer. For women, those are basketball, lacrosse, outdoor track, soccer, softball and volleyball. The other sports are scored, but on a lower points system.

For the second year in a row, Florida won the men's award and Stanford won the women's trophy.

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There were five SEC programs in the men's top eight. There were two Pac-12 teams, one ACC team, one Big Ten team, one Metro Atlantic Athletic team and one Missouri Valley team in the top 10.

The MAAC and MVC teams tied for 10th. The MAAC team was Loyola (Md.), which won the lacrosse title; the Missouri Valley team was North Dakota State, which won the FCS football title. Both those schools finished four points ahead of No. 12 USC. USC was seventh in the Directors Cup, while North Dakota State was 89th and Loyola 96th.

On the women's side, there were five Pac-12 teams in the top eight; the SEC had three teams in the top 10 and the ACC two.

Four schools were in the top 10 for men and women: Florida won the men's and was ninth in the women's. UCLA was third in the men's and second in the women's. LSU was fourth in both. Alabama was sixth in the men's and third in the women's.

The winner: The SEC. When you combine the top 10 of the men and the top 10 of the women, the league had eight of the 20 slots, plus a winner. The Pac-12 had seven of the top 20, plus a winner.

The 'by the numbers' method

In this category, we look at two variables. The first is how the leagues fared in what I consider the big five sports (football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and softball). The second is how many slots each league filled in the Elite Eight in each sport (there are 10 spots in football, using the BCS bowls as the measuring stick) among the "big five."

The SEC won three titles, in men's basketball (Kentucky), football (Alabama) and softball (Alabama). The Big 12 (Baylor in women's basketball) and the Pac-12 (Arizona in baseball) had one title each.

As for the Elite Eight slots (there were 42), the SEC had 12, followed by the Pac-12 with eight, the ACC and Big East with six each, the Big 12 with five, the Big Ten with three and America East and the Mid-American with one each.

Eight schools had two Elite Eight slots apiece: Alabama (football and softball), Baylor (men's and women's basketball), Florida (men's basketball and baseball), Kentucky (men's and women's basketball), LSU (football and softball), Oregon (football and softball), Stanford (football and women's basketball) and Tennessee (softball and women's basketball).

The SEC was the only league with at least one "Elite Eight" team in each of the five sports. Actually, the SEC had at least two in each sport, with three each in baseball and softball.

The winner: The SEC. An easy win. The SEC won three national titles and blew away the field for the most "elite" appearances.

The championship method

There are 37 national titles available to Division I teams (three of those – fencing, rifle and skiing – are open to all divisions), including two in football (FBS and FCS).

The Pac-12 and SEC led with nine team champions each. The ACC and Big Ten each had five, followed by the Big 12 with two and America East, Big East, Big West, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley and Mountain West with one each.

In all, 12 Division I conferences won at least one title.

Winner: The Pac-12 and SEC tied with nine titles apiece. Six league schools combined to win the Pac-12's nine titles, while four schools combined to win the SEC's nine crowns.

The list of champions

Here's the complete list of the 37 NCAA Division I team champs for the 2011-12 academic year. (Note: * – denotes two titles in a row; & – denotes three titles in a row; % – denotes four titles in a row.)

Baseball: Arizona (Pac-12)
Basketball, men: Kentucky (SEC)
Basketball, women: Baylor (Big 12)
Bowling: Maryland-Eastern Shore* (MEAC)
Cross country, men: Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Cross country, women: Georgetown (Big East)
Fencing: Ohio State (Big Ten)
Field hockey: Maryland* (ACC)
Football, FBS: Alabama (SEC)
Football, FCS: North Dakota State (Missouri Valley)
Golf, men: Texas (Big 12)
Golf, women: Alabama (SEC)
Gymnastics, men: Illinois (Big Ten)
Gymnastics, women: Alabama* (SEC)
Hockey, men: Boston College (ACC)
Hockey, women: Minnesota (Big Ten)
Lacrosse, men: Loyola (Md.) (MAAC)
Lacrosse, women: Maryland (ACC)
Rifle: TCU (Mountain West)
Rowing: Virginia (ACC)
Skiing: Vermont (America East)
Soccer, men: North Carolina (ACC)
Soccer, women: Stanford (Pac-12)
Softball: Alabama (SEC)
Swimming, men: California* (Pac-12)
Swimming, women: California* (Pac-12)
Tennis, men: USC% (Pac-12)
Tennis, women: Florida* (SEC)
Track, men's indoor: Florida& (SEC)
Track, women's indoor: Oregon& (Pac-12)
Track, men's outdoor: Florida (SEC)
Track, women's outdoor: LSU (SEC)
Volleyball, men: UC Irvine (Big West)
Volleyball, women: UCLA (Pac-12)
Water polo, men: USC% (Pac-12)
Water polo, women: Stanford* (Pac-12)
Wrestling: Penn State* (Big Ten)

Conference call

The national title winners by league. There are 37 titles, including two in football. Big Six conference schools won 31 of them, the same number as last year but two fewer than in 2009-10.

Pac-12 (9)
Indoor track, women: Oregon
Soccer, women: Stanford
Swimming, men: California
Swimming, women: California
Tennis, men: USC
Water polo, men: USC
Water polo, women: Stanford
Volleyball, women: UCLA

SEC (9)
Basketball, men:
Football (FBS): Alabama
Golf, women: Alabama
Gymnastics, women: Alabama
Indoor track, men: Florida
Softball: Alabama
Outdoor track, men: Florida
Outdoor track, women: LSU
Tennis, women: Florida

ACC (5)
Field hockey:
Ice hockey, men: Boston College
Lacrosse, women: Maryland
Rowing: Virginia
Soccer, men: North Carolina

Big Ten (5)
Cross country, men:
Fencing: Ohio State
Gymnastics, men: Illinois
Ice hockey, women: Minnesota
Wrestling: Penn State

Big 12 (2)
Basketball, women:
Golf, men: Texas

America East (1)

Big East (1)
Cross country, women:

Big West (1)
Volleyball, men:
UC Irvine

Metro Atlantic Athletic (1)
Lacrosse, men:
Loyola (Md.)

Mid-Eastern Athletic (1)
Maryland-Eastern Shore

Missouri Valley (1)
Football, FCS:
North Dakota State

Mountain West (1)

Multiple winners

Here are the schools that won multiple national title; these six schools won 15 of the 37 national titles.

Alabama (SEC):
Football, softball, women's golf, women's gymnastics
Florida (SEC):
Men's indoor track, men's outdoor track women's tennis
California (Pac-12):
Men's swimming, women's swimming
Maryland (ACC): Field hockey, women's lacrosse
Stanford (Pac-12): Women's soccer, women's water polo
USC (Pac-12): Men's tennis, men's water polo

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