A year of competition as a member of the Big 12 conference didn’t slow BYU’s athletic prowess on a national level.

In fact, according to one metric designed to assess broad-based athletic success, it was enhanced — barely.

The Cougars regained their status as the state of Utah’s premier athletic department this past school year, finishing 36th in the final Learfield Directors’ Cup standings with 637.5 points. Texas, which is leaving the Big 12 for the SEC on Monday, won the title again with 1,377 points.

The Directors’ Cup, directed by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics, honors schools for all-around success in all sports sponsored by the NCAA. The higher the national finish, the higher the point total awarded to the institution.

Last year, Utah won the unofficial competition among Beehive State schools, dethroning BYU for the first time since the Directors’ Cup program began in 1993. The Utes finished 28th nationally in 2022-23, while BYU was 37th.

But the Cougars bounced back this school year to reclaim in-state supremacy, jumping a spot to 36th (but garnering the exact same amount of points, 637) in their first year as a member of a Power Five conference. Some critics had suggested BYU would falter across the board in the Big 12, but the Olympic sports thrived, at least until this spring when baseball, softball and women’s golf had disappointing seasons.

BYU men’s golf was sailing along nicely in May, but crashed in the final round of the NCAA Regionals and did not make it to nationals.

Utah checked in at 47th place this year, with 527.5 points.

No other Utah schools came close to BYU or Utah, or to the top 100.

Utah State (125 points) placed 136th, Utah Valley (67 points) was 194th, Southern Utah (45.5 points) was 235th and Weber State (25 points) tied for 262nd.

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The Aggies picked up 50 points for their first NCAA Tournament win since 2001, a conquest of TCU, and arguably had the best basketball season of any Utah team, men’s or women’s.

Utah’s women’s basketball team also won an NCAA Tournament game; BYU’s men made the tournament for the first time since 2021, but were upset by Duquesne in Omaha, Nebraska.

As has happened for several consecutive years, BYU athletics got off to a strong start in the fall sports, then gradually slid down the standings through the winter and spring.

The Cougars were No. 6 in the entire country when the final fall standings were released on Jan. 11, thanks to strong finishes in women’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s cross-country. Both men’s cross-country and women’s soccer finished third in the nation last November.

The Cougars were No. 21 overall when the final winter sports standings were released in April.

Before this past year, BYU had finished in the top five of the fall standings for four consecutive years. In 2021-22, BYU was No. 1 in the fall standings for the first time in the history of the Directors’ Cup.

The Cougars ended up finishing 29th that year.

Utah Utes guard Gabe Madsen shoots against BYU's Trey Stewart (1) at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023. | Megan Nielsen, Deseret News
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This year, Stanford placed second with 1,312.75 points, followed by third-place Tennessee, which claimed the College Baseball World Series title Monday. Florida was fourth, while Virginia was fifth.

Utah got 88 points in the fall, 308 points in the winter, and 131.5 points this spring.

As usual, skiing was Utah’s best sport, as the ski team placed second in its defense of its 2023 national title and garnered 80 points.

Men’s lacrosse is also proving to be a solid point-getter for the Utes, as Utah made the NCAA Tournament but ran into powerful Duke in a first-round matchup and fell 19-7 in Durham, North Carolina.

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