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Pitt programs remain far behind in ACC, Directors' Cup standings

Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

I don't follow the Directors' Cup standings all that closely, but because I try to many of Pitt's athletics programs to some small degree, I do like to check in and see where they stand overall.

On the surface, you might think that the Panthers fare pretty well. Neither the football or the basketball programs have been outstanding lately, but the football team has reached a bowl game every year since 2008 and the basketball program has reached the NCAA Tournament most of the time under Jamie Dixon.

The wrestling, track, and swimming/diving programs have had some success recently and this year, the volleyball, women's basketball, cross country, and softball programs took steps forward. There's plenty of room for improvement (like, a lot) in all of those cases, but those programs have done at least some winning lately. Unfortunately, as a whole, Pitt's programs haven't accomplished nearly enough. Overall, they've done far too little and the result is that Pitt still lags behind in the ACC. In the most recent Directors' Cup standings, in fact, Pitt is at the bottom of the conference ahead of only Wake Forest, ranking 15th overall (including Notre Dame) in the ACC and 96th overall in Division I.

As NunesMagician points out, too, 11 different ACC schools have won at least one conference title this year - Pitt isn't one of them.

To be fair, the Directors' Cup standings aren't perfect. For example, Stanford, which like wins this thing every year, took home 100 total points for finishing first in women's water polo. There aren't nearly that many schools that field a team in that sport so, to me, it shouldn't be worth the same amount of points received for winning the college football national championship. Not because water polo should be downplayed as a sport, but because there's not nearly the level of competition there with a lot fewer schools.

Still, it doesn't show well for the Panthers to be so far behind in the overall standings and especially in their own conference.

Some of Pitt's programs have been flat out bad lately. The men's soccer team has had 14 losing seasons in a row. The women's soccer team has had one winning season in its 19-year history. The tennis team hasn't had a winning year in the past five seasons and was 2-18 (and winless in the ACC) this year.

Other programs haven't been quite that bad, but still need help. Several of the ones I mentioned that have had some recent success have had long strings of losing and they shouldn't be let off the hook. And after a banner year in 2013, the baseball team has found the transition to the ACC difficult. The Panthers have had two consecutive losing seasons since moving to the ACC and this year, were dead last in the conference.

That simply is not good enough and all of this underscores the fact that new athletic director Scott Barnes has his work cut out for him. The Panthers have been behind in funding behind many of the major-conference programs as a member of the Big East. In the ACC, Pitt is making much more money, of course. Still, many of the Panthers' programs ranking at or near the bottom of the conference can't be built up overnight.

And not only can Pitt not build these programs immediately, they can't buy their way out of this hole, either. The money will help improve facilities, hire coaches, and provide increased recruiting budgets, but they still need to hire the right people if they're not in place, use the money wisely, and sell the program to better athletes. All of this falls to Barnes.

Pitt also loses out a little by not fielding programs that other ACC schools do, such as Lacrosse, Men's Tennis, Fencing, and Field Hockey. But despite those gaps, the Panthers really should be doing a better job of moving up higher in the standings.

Barnes' only job isn't to get many of these programs turned around. There's the fundraising aspect, the branding quandary, restoring some relationships with past donors, etc. But there's no doubt that he will have his hands full helping Pitt to improve many programs that have had little success.

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