Who really has the ACC's Top Athletics Program?

By Bill Roth

So, which school really has the best overall athletics program in the ACC, and what's the best way to determine the result? In other words, how do we crown a true "ACC All Sports Champion?"

Well, if we determine our result solely by league titles, we give an unfair advantage to schools that offer the most overall sports. But only two ACC schools, North Carolina and Duke, participate in all 27 sports offered by the league.  By comparison, Georgia Tech only participates in 17.  So, we want to be fair to every athletics department, big or small.

If we determine our result by success in NCAA Tournaments and post-season competition, which is what the Learfield Cup does, we completely omit regular season success. For example, in the Learfield standings, the 2018 Virginia men's basketball team received the same number of points as Texas Southern or Bucknell because it lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  It gets no credit for a 31-3 season including a 17-1 ACC mark, or for winning the ACC Tournament.  In the Learfield standings, those two accomplishments aren't considered. 


Also, some ACC schools are very successful in sports outside the ACC umbrella, such as Boston College (men's and women's ice hockey) and Notre Dame (football). 

What we wanted to do was to devise a formula that's fair to all and gives an equal playing field to all 15 schools.  

And we also wanted to look big picture, and so we went back to the 2004-05 season when the ACC expanded to include Miami and Virginia Tech.  We went through every school, every team, every sport and looked at head-to-head competition within the ACC. That gives us 14 years of data, and thousands of games to include in our analytics which is far more accurate and essential for this to work.  Why? Because in the ACC, schedules are unbalanced. For example, not everyone plays everyone else in basketball and football each year.  But over 14 years they do. We don’t need divisions, because everything is head-to-head over 14 years.  Thus, we have much more data and more balanced analytics for all teams. 

Didn’t the ACC do this before?:  Sort of. The Carmichael Cup was awarded each year to the league’s “All Sports Champion,” but it didn’t take into consideration schools that don’t compete in every sport.  North Carolina won just about every year and the competition was phased out completely.

Our Formula:

Ok, here's where we get a little tricky and start talking about denominators and quotients. But remember, we want to be fair to all so if only five teams play lacrosse in the ACC, and all 15 play basketball, how do we handle it?


To make it fair, we give each school a 'denominator,' which is the total number of sports each ACC team competes against within the league.  For example, UNC (320), Virginia Tech (291), and Georgia Tech (239) each has a different denominator. 

Points are awarded based on the number of competing teams in a sport (e.g. – 14 teams compete in ACC baseball, giving the winner 14 points, second gets 13, etc. Six teams compete in wrestling, awarding six points to the winner). A program's points total is divided by the total number of teams competing in the sports the school fields and that quotient ranks the teams in the final standings. Regular season standings are used in all sports except: cross country/track & field, swimming & diving, golf, rowing, and fencing. For these sports, placing at the ACC Championships is used.

We looked at some other conferences to see if anyone had a similar league-wide scoring system. The SEC and Sun Belt use similar formulas. The Sun Belt awards additional point for conference tournament champion. The SEC weighs Cross Country/Track and Field as one sport:, (XC = .25, Indoor T&F = .25, Outdoor T&F = .50. In our formula, we treat each sport as its own team. 

The Brain behind this:

Damian Salas

Damian Salas

The brain power behind all this is analytics whiz and stats guru Damian Salas. Damian has been involved in stats at Virginia Tech since 1995 and is currently the Senior Director and Webmaster for hokiesports.com.   

He's developed incredible live-stats formulas and displays for media, and is another in a long line of successful Virginia Tech analytics experts.

Damian provided the computer formulas and I provided ...  well ...   I provided the ice, which is very important.

Ice is very crucial when you're sitting around for six weeks discussing, tweaking and adjusting a formula that is fair to all, takes into consideration expansion, unbalanced scheduling, and examines data over a 14-year period. 

So, who really has the ACC's Top Athletics Program?

We will compile the data and release the final results on Sunday after the end of the 2018 ACC Baseball regular season.  

We have an idea of who the winner is.  And it's going to surprise you.





William Roth