Capital One Cup to honor best program

INDIANAPOLIS -- There's an added incentive to prove which college or university has the best athletic program in America -- $200,000 in graduate scholarship money.

On Wednesday, the NCAA and corporate sponsor Capital One announced they were joining forces to create the Capital One Cup, which will be awarded to best all-around men's and women's Division I programs.

Standings will be released at the end of the fall, winter and spring seasons, with the overall winners announced in July at the ESPY Awards.

"Honestly, I'd love to see it become the elite award in college athletics where it becomes synonymous with hard work and everything that's good," former Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie said in a phone interview from New York City, where the announcement was held. "Along with that, I'd like to see some respect for the non-revenue generating sports."

Points will be awarded in 13 men's sports and 13 women's sports. Schools will earn points, much like a track meet, for finishing among the nation's top 10 in NCAA championships and media polls. Twenty points will be awarded to each national champion with descending points awarded to each of the next nine finishers.

It's not the first time colleges have competed for such an award.

Since 2003-04, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics has awarded the Directors Cup for the best overall program. From 1993-94 through 2002-03, the award was called the Sears Cup after the previous corporate sponsor.

That award looked at the combined men's and women's scores, with North Carolina winning the title in '93-94, and Stanford claiming it every year since. As a result, organizers decided to split it into two awards for men's and women's programs.

"We know that when you separate them out that the Duke men and Stanford women probably would have won it last year," former Southern Cal and WNBA star Lisa Leslie said. "Now that we can separate them out, maybe we'll see some other schools getting in there."

Flutie and Leslie are two of the former college athletes on the cup's advisory board. Former world champion soccer player Brandi Chastain, former baseball star Robin Ventura and television announcers Clark Kellogg and Rece Davis are the other members of the panel.

Greg Shaheen, the NCAA's interim executive vice president of championships and business strategies, also was in New York for the announcement.

Top-tier sports will be baseball, basketball and football for the men, and basketball, softball and volleyball for the women.

Second-tier sports -- lacrosse, outdoor track and field, soccer and swimming and diving -- are the same sports for both men and women.

Third-tier sports for both genders are cross country, golf, indoor track and field and tennis. The final men's sports will be ice hockey and wrestling, with the women counting field hockey and rowing.

Flutie had a message for those who think this is just another way to put winning first.

"That's what athletic programs are all about, from a sports fans point of view," he said. "But you need all your programs to be doing well. I think it really will show us who the top programs are. The athletic programs, the alumni, everyone can take pride in it."