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Slideshow: Ranking all 65 Power Five schools in overall athletic success

65. Washington State
Top 2017-18 sport: women’s soccer. Trajectory: Up. For the first time in the current five-year rankings window, the Cougars broke into the top 100, vaulting all the way to 80th. For a school that made less and spent less than any other Power Five public university in 2016-17, that’s progress. The scarcely conceivable No. 170 ranking in 2014-15 will likely keep the Cougars last until it comes off the books in 2020.

Slideshow: Ranking all 65 Power Five schools in overall athletic success

Ranking the Power Five athletic departments in terms of overall success:

The following ranking of the 65 athletic departments in the five major conferences – Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern – is an average of their annual standing in the Learfield Directors Cup over the past five school years (2012-13 through 2017-18). The Learfield standings are used by the National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) as the official measuring stick for how universities perform overall athletically in a given year.

65. Washington State. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s soccer. Trajectory: Up. For the first time in the current five-year rankings window, the Cougars broke into the top 100, vaulting all the way to 80th. For a school that made less and spent less than any other Power Five public university in 2016-17, that’s progress http://sports.usatoday.com/ncaa/finances . The scarcely conceivable No. 170 ranking in 2014-15 will likely keep the Cougars last until it comes off the books in 2020.

64. Rutgers. Top 2017-18 sport: wrestling. Trajectory: Steady. When is a No. 107 national finish something to celebrate for a Power Five? When the previous year’s finish was 116th. Until proven otherwise, the Scarlet Knights’ move to the Big Ten remains a lucrative disaster.

63. Pittsburgh. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s volleyball. Trajectory: Down. After providing a brief flutter of hope last year by rising to No. 92 nationally, the Panthers sank back to 111th this year. Their inclusion in the Atlantic Coast Conference remains one of the more specious acquisitions in realignment history.

62. Georgia Tech. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s tennis. Trajectory: Down. Congratulations, Yellow Jackets. You were the lowest-ranked of all Power Five athletic departments this year, checking in at No. 121 — trailing the likes of Pacific, Albany and Colgate. 

61. Kansas State. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s basketball. Trajectory: Steady. The Wildcats were 72nd this year, which is a lot better than ranking 99th in 2013-14. But with just 12 varsity sports, the ceiling is permanently low.

60. Oregon State. Top 2017-18 sport: baseball (national champion). Trajectory: Up. The baseball title shot the Beavers up to 60th, their highest ranking of the past five years. That camouflaged plenty of shortcomings, most glaringly in the fall sports.

59. Boston College. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s lacrosse. Trajectory: Down. The Eagles’ decline accelerated this year — from 48th in 2015-16 to 72nd last year to 95th this time around. If it weren’t for a runner-up finish in women’s lacrosse — allowing BC to eke past South Dakota State by half a point — this season would have been almost a complete loss in Chestnut Hill.

58. Wake Forest. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s tennis (national champion). Trajectory: Up. From a low of 90th in 2014-15, the Demon Deacons have steadily risen: 68th, then 55th, now 48th. The men’s tennis title was the school’s first team championship in 11 years and just the second since 1986. 

57. Kansas. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s basketball. Trajectory: Steady. They love their basketball in Lawrence, and that’s a good thing. Because nothing else is elite nationally. The search is on to replace forgettable athletic director Sheahon Zenger, who was fired in May.

56. West Virginia. Top 2017-18 sport: rifle. Trajectory: Steady. The Morgantown renaissance was brief. The Mountaineers ranked in the 60s from 2014-16, rose to No. 45 last year and then backslid to No. 63 this year. Spring sports are virtually non-existent in terms of national competitiveness.

55. Utah. Top 2017-18 sport: skiing. Trajectory: Down. After three straight years in the 50s, the Utes fell to No. 61 this year and longtime AD Chris Hill retired. Women’s gymnastics and skiing are toting a lot of mail at Utah, with some help from women’s volleyball. 

54. Iowa. Top 2017-18 sport: wrestling. Trajectory: Steady. After a No. 78 finish in 2013-14, the Hawkeyes have improved enough to finish ahead of in-state rival Iowa State the last four years. But they’re also the lowest-rated Big Ten school not named Rutgers. For a school that spent nearly $129 million on athletics in 2016-17, that’s not a stellar return on investment.

53. Miami. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s tennis. Trajectory: Down. Even with a modest budget, there is no good excuse for the Hurricanes ranking this low overall, and even less excuse for placing 62nd this year. Miami hasn’t finished higher than 40th over the last five years.

52. Vanderbilt. Top 2017-18 sport: bowling (national champion). Trajectory: Steady. The bowling national title was the Commodores’ fourth in any sport in school history, but all four have come within the last 11 years. So that’s progress for the academic shining star of the Southeastern Conference, which remains its athletic weak link.

51. TCU. Top 2017-18 sport: rifle. Trajectory: Steady. The Horned Frogs should thank the rifle team for propping up the rest of the department, though football and men’s tennis were pretty good as well. There are plenty of areas for improvement.

50. Clemson. Top 2017-18 sport: football. Trajectory: Steady. The grid-centric Tigers were 52nd for the second straight year, getting a rare contribution from men’s basketball. Clemson was 25th in athletic expenditures in 2016-17, which says the school is not getting near enough all-sports bang for its buck.

49. Iowa State. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s cross country. Trajectory: Up. The Cyclones slid from 38th to 64th between 2014-16, and have been incrementally rebuilding since. They finished 59th last year and 56th this year. The big surprise: an ongoing downturn in wrestling, a bedrock sport.

48. Texas Tech. Top 2017-18 sport: baseball. Trajectory: Up. After plummeting to 65th last year, the Red Raiders had a that’s-more-like-it jump to 41st — the same basic neighborhood they occupied in 2014-15 and ’15-16. Tech has become a baseball power within the last five years, and got a huge boost this year from men’s basketball.

47. Mississippi. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s and women’s tennis. Trajectory: Up. The Rebels aren’t great at anything, but they stayed in the top 40 for the second consecutive year by being pretty good at a lot of things. That’s with the exception of winter sports, which were the lowest producers of any SEC program.

46. Mississippi State. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s basketball. Trajectory: Up. The Bulldogs hit an all-time Learfield Cup high this year at No. 42, their third straight year cracking the top 50. A second straight runner-up finish in women’s basketball and a remarkable College World Series run were the 2018 highlights.

45. Indiana. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s soccer. Trajectory: Down. The Hoosiers had top ten finishes in men’s soccer and both men’s and women’s swimming, but not much else to brag about as their overall ranking has dropped from 41st to 47th to 49th over the past three years. They could use some help from their fabled men’s basketball program. 

44. Purdue. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s track. Trajectory: Up. After finishing 60th in 2015, the Boilermakers have improved to 45th, then 41st, then 39th this year. An eighth-place finish in women’s outdoor track, highest in school history, pushed Purdue into the top 40.

43. Maryland. Top 2017-18 sport: field hockey. Trajectory: Steady. Life in the Big Ten continues to be difficult. The Terrapins were in the top 35 in their last season with the ACC and first with the Big Ten, but since then have finished 59th, 50th and this year 53rd. The Terms are good at sports with sticks (field hockey, lacrosse), less so in everything else.

42. Michigan State. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s soccer, women’s volleyball. Trajectory: Steady. Scandal swept out popular AD Mark Hollis, but things marginally improved on the field. After two straight years at No. 53, the Spartans moved up to 50th. That still was only better than three other Big Ten schools.

41. Northwestern. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s golf. Trajectory: Up. The Wildcats jumped from 50th three straight years to 36th last year, and nudged a little farther forward to 34th this year. Nothwestern’s women’s sports were strong, especially in the spring. With the new facility commitments the trajectory should continue to rise.

40. Syracuse. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s indoor track. Trajectory: Steady. After vaulting up to 21st in 2016, the Orange have returned to their more natural surroundings — 44th last year and 46th this year. Syracuse is well ahead of the surprisingly large lower class of the ACC, but a long way from competing with the top tier of the conference.

39. Illinois. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s gymnastics. Trajectory: Steady. The Illini are at the front of the Big Ten’s sprawling middle class. They’re consistently good in men’s gymnastics, men’s tennis and wrestling. Women’s sports have a long way to go.

38. Colorado. Top 2017-18 sport: skiing. Trajectory: Steady. The Buffaloes put their altitude to good use, with the usual big seasons in skiing and cross country. There also were strong seasons in women’s volleyball and women’s lacrosse. But after a one-year blip of success, football relapsed to also-ran status.

37. Missouri. Top 2017-18 sport: wrestling. Trajectory: Steady. After being outside the top 40 from 2014-16, the Tigers have been 33rd each of the past two years. They’ve become a consistent wrestling contender, and distance runner Karissa Schweizer was a multi-sport star. 

36. Tennessee. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s swimming. Trajectory: Up. The Volunteers rebounded from a disappointing 2016-17 year to improve 11 spots this season, up to 35th. They got a combined 138 points from their swimming programs and 100 from basketball, highlighting a strong winter sports run.

35. Arizona. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s golf (national champion). Trajectory: Down. It was a tough year in Tucson, where the Wildcats slid out of the top 50 for the first time this century. With a coach firing in football and scandal in basketball, the women’s golf title is about the only thing to brag about in Arizona sports this year.

34. Virginia Tech. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s indoor track. Trajectory: Up. The Hokies bounced up 12 spots this year, from 40th to 28th, the best finish in school history. In particular, men’s track and women’s lacrosse had breakthrough seasons, although the latter created some regrettable headlines along the way https://deadspin.com/video-shows-virginia-tech-womens-lacrosse-team-chanting-1824096912 ). 

33. Baylor. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s soccer. Trajectory: Down. The Bears have had some wild swings of fortune over the past four years: from 23rd to 56th to 24th to 43rd this season. Baylor, which sponsors only seven men’s sports, didn’t score a point in the fall or winter on the men’s side.

32. Nebraska. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s volleyball (national champion). Trajectory: Down. The volleyball title was nice, but the Cornhuskers finished 44th overall, their lowest ranking of the past five years. Among Big Ten schools, only Rutgers scored lower than Nebraska in spring sports.

31. Arizona State. Top 2017-18 sport: softball. Trajectory: Up. The Sun Devils reversed a three-year downward trend by jumping up 12 spots in ’17-18, from 43rd to 31st. And that’s with very little help from fall sports. Finishing 20 spots ahead of Arizona was good news in Tempe.

30. South Carolina. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s soccer. Trajectory: Steady. The Gamecocks have been as low as 46th and as high as 21st in the last five years, and finished 26th this year. While that’s certainly not bad, it is decidedly middle class in the SEC.

29. Auburn. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s golf. Trajectory: Up. There were enough troubling off-field headlines in Auburn athletics that longtime AD Jay Jacobs resigned — but the Tigers had a great year on the field. They moved up from 28th to 18th, scoring points in men’s basketball for the first time in a long time.

28. Louisville. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s basketball. Trajectory: Steady. Despite massive upheaval, including the firing of athletic director Tom Jurich, the Cardinals remained in the top 30 for the fifth straight year — and that’s with no help from men’s basketball. Men’s and women’s swimming, strong for many years, hit a new high with both finishing in the top 10 nationally.

27. North Carolina State. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s swimming. Trajectory: Up. The Wolfpack was one of the biggest climbers this year, jumping from 29th to 15th. The men’s swimming program has established itself as a perennial power, and the wrestling program had a breakthrough season to finish in the NCAA top five.

26. Oklahoma State. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s golf (national champion). Trajectory: Down. The Cowboys tumbled out of the top 30 for the first time in the five-year window, landing at No. 32 this year. When you only sponsor 14 varsity sports, a down season in a couple of them hurts.

25. Washington. Top 2017-18 sports: rowing, softball. Trajectory: Down. The Huskies are going the wrong way, going from 14th to 22nd to 29th over the past three years. Winter sports were low scorers, but women’s sports remain strong in many areas.

24. Alabama. Top 2017-18 sport: football. Trajectory: Up. Putting the waterfall in the football facility hasn’t bankrupted the rest of the department — the Crimson Tide has risen from 36th to 25th to 14th over the past three years. Unlike Clemson, there are plenty of signs of life here beyond the gridiron — especially on the golf course.

23. Minnesota. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s gymnastics. Trajectory: Up. Gophers rose from 30th to 19th year-over-year, and did it without assistance from football, men’s basketball or — believe it or not — men’s hockey. Olympic sports are in good shape across the board at Minnesota.

22. LSU. Top 2017-18 sport: women’s gymnastics. Trajectory: Down. The Tigers slipped out of the Top 25 for the first time in the five-year window, sliding to 27th. They take their baseball seriously in Baton Rouge, and that program isn’t what it used to be. Of course, neither is the football program.

21. Arkansas. Top 2017-18 sport: baseball, women’s indoor track. Trajectory: Up. The Razorbacks are on a moderate growth cycle, moving up from 23rd in 2015-16 to 20th last year to 16th this season. But falling a single strike short of winning the College World Series will hurt for a long time.

20. Wisconsin. Top 2017-18 sport: football. Trajectory: Steady. The Badgers made their hay in the fall, with strong performances in football, men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and women’s cross country. They were hurt by a rare non-scoring season in men’s basketball.

19. Oklahoma. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s gymnastics (national champion). Trajectory: Down. The Sooners were 25th this year, their lowest finish since 2009. Their only fall sport to score points was football, which made the College Football Playoff. 18. Duke. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s lacrosse. Trajectory: Up. The program had been on the descent for the previous three seasons, bottoming out at No. 32 last year, but rebounded with a vengeance this year to finish 11th. This marked the first time since 2014 that Duke finished ahead of North Carolina, always a welcome result in Durham.

17. Kentucky. Top 2017-18 sport: rifle (national champion). Trajectory: Down. America’s rifle powerhouse slipped from last year’s all-time high of 10th to 17th, taking a sizable step back in fall sports scoring (down from 181 points to 98). Still, the Wildcats continued their upward mobility in several women’s sports: volleyball, swimming, gymnastics, softball and track.

16. California. Top 2017-18 sport: rowing (national champion). Trajectory: Down. The Golden Bears were in the top 15 from 2015-17 but slipped down to No. 20 this year. The program is great in anything performed in water — swimming, water polo, rowing — but not so great on dry land. And looming budget issues leave the future uncertain.

15. Notre Dame. Top 2017-18 sports: women’s basketball, fencing (national champions). Trajectory: Steady. The Fighting Irish won two titles, including an epic Final Four performance in women’s hoops, but overall finished outside the Top 20 for the second straight season after ranking as high as No. 3 in 2014. This year at least a reversed a three-year downward trend, with the Irish nudging up from No. 23 to 22.

14. Oregon. Top 2017-18 sport: softball. Trajectory: Down. The Ducks’ 24th-place finish was their lowest of the past five years, and a 15-spot plummet from last year. This was the first time since 2006 that the running powerhouse failed to win at least one national title.

13. Georgia. Top 2017-18 sports: women’s indoor track and field, men’s track and field (national champions). Trajectory: Up. This was a breakthrough year for the Bulldogs, recording their highest overall finish since 2005. The nascent track power was also helped by the football team’s national runner-up season.

12. Florida State. Top 2017-18 sport: softball (national champion). Trajectory: Up. The Seminoles cracked the Top Ten this season, their highest finish in the five-year window of these rankings. And that’s despite the school’s worst football season in more than four decades. 

11. Texas A&M. Top 2017-18 sports: men’s tennis; women’s swimming. Trajectory: Steady. The Aggies finished in the Top Ten for the second time in five years, and have not been lower than 17th in the five-year window of these rankings. But should they be higher? The only school making more money on athletics is Texas.

10. Virginia. Top 2017-18 sport: rowing. Trajectory: Down. The Cavaliers have slid in the rankings each of the past five years, from fourth to sixth to eighth to 19th to 21st this season. Four ACC schools finished ahead of them.

9. Penn State. Top 2017-18 sport: wrestling (national champion). Trajectory: Steady. The Nittany Lions scored more fall points than anyone but Stanford, with top ten finishes from field hockey, football, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. Then they added the wrestling natty in the winter.

8. Michigan. Top 2017-18 sport: men’s basketball. Trajectory: Steady. After being outside the top 12 in 2014 and ’15, Wolverines now have finished in the top six three years in a row. Only Ohio State scored more points in winter sports nationally, but Michigan hasn’t won a team national title in any sport since 2014.

7. North Carolina. Top 2017-18 sports: women’s field hockey; men’s soccer; women’s lacrosse. Trajectory: Down. Tar Heels slid out of the Top Ten for the first time since 2014, finishing 13th, and this also was the first time since ’14 that UNC wasn’t the top ACC program. They didn’t score any points in men’s lacrosse for the first time since 2006.

6. Ohio State. Top 2017-18 teams: wrestling; men’s tennis. Trajectory: Down. After consecutive years as the national runner-up to Stanford, the Buckeyes slipped to seventh this year. But they’ve been in the top seven for four straight seasons, carrying the banner for schools that actually experience winter. 

5. Texas. Top 2017-18 team: men’s swimming (national champion). Trajectory: Steady. The Longhorns are always a strong, broad-based athletic department. But as the national leader in revenue (nearly $215 million in 2016-17) and expenditures ($207 million), it still feels like they should be better. 

4. UCLA. Top 2017-18 teams: women’s gymnastics, men’s water polo, beach volleyball (national champions). Trajectory: Up. The Bruins rebounded from an uncharacteristic 11th place ranking last year to finish second behind Stanford this year. UCLA’s 748 points in spring sports were the most for any school in any season of 2017-18.

3. USC. Top 2017-18 teams: women’s track and field, women’s water polo (national champions). Trajectory: Steady. For the third straight year, the Trojan won at least one national title in a spring sport. For the fourth straight year, they ranked in the top four overall departments.

2. Florida. Top 2017-18 team: men’s indoor track and field (national champion). Trajectory: Steady. Gators have been in the top five each of the last five years, bolstered this year by their outstanding spring sports. 

1. Stanford. Top 2017-18 teams: women’s swimming, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, women’s tennis (national champions). Trajectory: Steady. The insurmountable leader in all-around excellence. Nobody has a better combination of motivated athletes, elite coaches, ideal climate and modern (yet not ostentatious) facilities. Catch the Cardinal if you can.