When Lisa Leslie and I spoke on the phone two weeks ago, the men’s and women’s semifinal and championship games hadn’t been played yet. California was leading the women’s Capital One Cup standings and Auburn was leading the men’s.
Leslie, a representative of the Capital One Cup, was heading to Indianapolis for the women’s Final Four while I was already in Houston for the men’s Final Four.
“We’re excited because this is a great time to really promote the Capital One Cup and hopefully get the fans behind it. It’s really about bragging rights,” she said. “UConn men’s and women’s teams could change their scores, Stanford women’s team too. Just a great opportunity for us to promote both academics and athletics.”
So, what exactly is the Capital One Cup? It’s a prestigious new accolade rewarding NCAA Division I athletics programs for their cumulative on-field performance across multiple men’s and women’s sports. I attended the Cup launch back in September, where I met Leslie and Brandi Chastain, amongst others.
“Schools earn points for a top ten finish in NCAA Championships and final official coaches’ polls. Points are totaled separately for Men’s and Women’s sports, with the top ten finishers for each receiving an award.” Sports are divided into three groups with each group receiving a different set of points; groupings are “based on fan interest, school participation and other factors.”
After the conclusion of the Final Four, there were some major shifts in the women’s standings. Stanford used its semifinal appearance to propel itself to the top of the leaderboard, Notre Dame’s national championship appearance landed them in a tie for second place, and Texas A&M crept into fourth with their national title.
On the men’s side, national champion UConn inched closer to Auburn while runner-up Butler is in a tie for seventh.
We’ll find out who the winners are after the conclusion of the spring sports. Leslie said, “There has been overwhelming support from all the different ADs about winning the Cup. There is a lot of support from the schools; they’re motivated to win. Capital One is doing a huge job.”
The winning men’s and women’s athletic programs will also receive a $200,000 scholarship to fund post-graduate studies.