Bulldogs finish top 20 in latest Directors’ Cup. AD Josh Brooks aiming much higher

Marc Weiszer
Athens Banner-Herald
Apr 16, 2022; Athens, Georgia; Pre game scenes from the Georgia Bulldogs Spring Game at Sanford Stadium. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

One glorious January night in Indianapolis will define the past athletic year for Georgia.

The Bulldogs’ first football national title in 41 years will be remembered by fans for decades to come, but it was just one major piece of the showings on the fields of play by UGA teams in the 2021-2022 season.

Georgia finished No. 19 in the Learfield Directors’ Cup, an all-sports measurement whose final standings were released last week. That was down nine spots from the previous academic year and ranked sixth among SEC schools behind No. 5 Florida, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 9 Kentucky, No. 13 Tennessee and No. 16 LSU.

Nine Bulldogs programs slid in their national NCAA postseason finishes from a year earlier, five improved and six provided the same scoring—women’s basketball with another second-round NCAA tournament exit and men’s basketball, soccer, volleyball and men’s and women’s cross country failing to reach the NCAA postseason again.

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Both the men's and women's basketball and soccer programs have new head coaches in place for next season as does swimming and diving after the retirement of longtime coach Jack Bauerle.

One of those teams that improved—baseball—didn’t get past the NCAA regional round a year after it missed out on the tournament.

Athletic director Josh Brooks told the school’s athletic board in late May he’s aiming “not only being in the top 10 in the Directors' Cup, but the top 5 and eventually trying to win it all.”

For now, future SEC member Texas is at the top of the heap for the second straight year, ahead of Stanford, Michigan, and Ohio State in the cup standings.

Georgia finished in the top 10 in four of five years from 2004-08, but has landed in the top 10 just three times since.

This time, women’s golf and men’s track at fifth had the highest national finish after football followed by men’s swimming and men’s indoor track in eighth and women’s tennis in ninth. Women’s golf, under coach Josh Brewer,  reached the NCAA championship match play round and had its best finish since placing fourth in 2002.

Equestrian, which is not an NCAA-sponsored sport, doesn’t account for scoring in the cup standings.

“We want to be successful in all 21 sports,” Brooks said. “We won’t rest until that number continues to grow where all our sports are continuing to grow.”

Brooks went to Oregon last month to see the men’s track team under first-year coach Caryl Smith-Gilbert, a national title contender, finish fifth in the NCAAs.

“That’s the level we want to bring all sports,” Brooks said.

It was a rebuilding year for the women's track program which was third a year earlier but finished 45th this year and went from fifth to 46th in the indoor season.

Brooks hopes his soccer hire, Keidane McAlpine who like Smith-Gilbert came from Southern Cal, can get the program into the postseason, something it hasn’t done since 2014.

The Georgia women’s swimming team won seven national titles under Bauerle including in 2013, 2014 and 2016, but has finished outside the top 10 in three of the last four championships.

“It takes a long time to build a dynasty,” said Stefanie Williams Moreno, the new women’s swim coach. “Jack was a head coach in the early 80s and his first (national) title was in 1999. I think just getting the right staff together, the right athletes. …There’s a lot of resources here for the student-athletes. Just finding the right fit and the right kids to want to take that program back to where it was.”

Georgia’s No. 19 finish in the Directors' Cup is its second lowest since 2011 behind No. 21 in 2019. Each school counts 19 sports in the final standings.