Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ivy League All-Sports Points Standings

TigerBlog alluded last week to the Ivy League all-sports points standings, an unofficial system that attempts to measure the top overall athletic program in the league in a particular year. The standings are kept by TigerBlog and updated after each season.

Of course, TB wouldn't invest this time if Princeton didn't win it every year, or at least the last 22 years. TB began working at Princeton 15 years ago and as such isn't sure when it was first kept and by whom, though TigerBlog emeritus Kurt Kehl used to refer to it as "the Myslik System," which probably means it had something to do with former AD Bob Myslik.

The standings through the winter this year show Princeton with 130 points, followed by Harvard with 108.5 and then Cornell with 94.5.

It's a simple formula. Teams are awarded eight points for a first-place finish, seven points for second, six for third, etc. Since the Ivy League only breaks ties for purposes of NCAA tournament bids, teams that tie split the points for those spots. In other words, two teams that tie for fourth get 4.5 points each for that sport.

Though Princeton has 38 varsity sports, only 33 sports are recognized by the Ivy League as official league sports (at Princeton that means that men's and women's water polo, women's lightweight rowing, men's volleyball and sprint football are not Ivy League sports). Princeton and Harvard are the only two schools in the league that sponsor all 33 sports; Columbia, with 27, has the fewest.

Most of the other schools are closer to the full 33. Yale, for instance, has 32 (no wrestling in New Haven). Penn, with a great skating rink behind the Palestra, has 31 teams; recreational skaters in West Philly don't have to compete for ice time with the non-existent men's and women's hockey teams.

Teams are awarded eight points and down for sports that have fewer than eight teams, because it wouldn't be correct to penalize the teams that are competing.

The key to Princeton's success is that 1) the Tigers almost always win the most championships and 2) the teams that don't win usually finish in the top three. Through the fall and winter, there are 20 Ivy teams that have already competed. Of those 20 sports, Princeton's team has finished in the top three in the league in 16 of them.

There are many conferences in all divisions that have an official all-sports points standings. At the end of the year, a trophy (often called "the Commissioner's Cup," or something like that) is awarded to the winning school.

The Ivy League office has been very adament in requesting that Princeton use the word "unofficial" when publicizing the standings, and the league itself never mentions the standings anywhere in any fashion. That may change one day, and the Ivy League may have its own official all-around champion, but it won't be before Princeton actually loses one year.

With that in mind, "unofficial" works just fine.

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