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Conference of champions

By Chris Martin
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
July 12, 2000
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Arizona Summer Wildcat

Arizona 1 of 3 Pac-10 teams in the top 10 of the Sears

The Pacific 10 Conference claims to be "The Conference of Champions." Never again may its slogan ring as true as it did this year, as the conference received the highest ranking of any conference in the Sears Directors' Cup standings.

Paving the way for the Pac-10's No. 1 ranking were Stanford, UCLA and Arizona - all finished in the top-10 of the 2000 Sears Directors' Cup voting.

The Cardinal and the Bruins led the push for the conference's top billing, locking the first and second spots in the ranking. Arizona finished eighth.

"Stanford is just a great, great school, and we just appreciate that they are in the Pac-10," UA senior associate athletic director Rocky LaRose said. "We are the conference of champions."

The Sears Directors' Cup is designed to honor universities with a broad base of athletic programs for both men and women.

Enjoying success in the Sears Directors' Cup standings is nothing new for the Pac-10 - Stanford won the individual school title for an unprecedented sixth straight year.

Three other Pac-10 schools - Arizona State, California and USC - finished in the top 20, giving the Pac-10 six representatives, the highest total of any conference.

Also helping the conference earn top billing for the award were the seven NCAA championships won by Pac-10 schools, the highest mark in the country.

"Over the years we have outdistanced the Big-10 Conference in championships," Pac-10 commissioner Thomas Hansen said of the conference's closet competition.

The conference's ability to combine athletics with academics is one of the most attractive features to prospective athletes, said Jim Livengood, UA athletic director.

"Everyone of our 10 schools has a premium on academics," he said. "We are very, very good at combining academics and athletics."

Hansen agreed.

"I think the bedrock is the high quality of the institutions themselves," he said. "Success breeds success, and it starts at the top. These are some of the finest universities in the world."

For Arizona, an eighth-place ranking in a field composed of 319 NCAA Division I universities is impressive considering the high level of competition in the conference.

The Wildcats won Pac-10 titles in men's cross country, men's basketball, women's golf and women's swimming and diving.

It was national competition, however, that really upped the ranking of the UA in the Sears Directors' Cup standings.

The women's golf team won the national championship, while the women's swimming and diving team placed second at NCAA championships.

Third-place finishes by the men's golf team, the softball team and the men's swimming and diving team also helped contribute to the school's high finish.

Livengood said athletic success is reflective of the university's standards.

"It is huge, it just says an awful lot about this university," he said. "Our competition is tough because of what we have to get through (in conference play) to get to the NCAA playoffs."

LaRose attributes much of Arizona's collective success to the commitment of the team's coaches and trainers.

"We have the best coaching staff and support staff around," she said. "We are a great academic institution, first and foremost, and we have a long tradition of good athletics."

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