Gordon Monson: A shout-out to BYU sports

The Cougars’ football team wasn’t the only squad that excelled last fall, earning the school a top spot in a national ranking

(Jaren Wilkey | BYU) The BYU women's soccer team celebrates a win over defending champs Santa Clara last year, earning them a trip to their first-ever national title game. The Cougars' soccer team was just one squad that excelled in Provo last fall.

BYU sports — utilizing that plural in the singular because of what the collective accomplished — deserves praise in a big way, finishing as it did in the country’s No. 1 spot in the Directors’ Cup Division I fall standings.

That’s pretty damned impressive.

What that means is that the school’s teams, combined, racked up more points — each sport’s count is added into the total — than any other school’s teams. Duh, right? Cool for them.

Some college sports fans pretty much disregard anything that isn’t achieved inside of so-called major sports, which is to say, football and men’s basketball.

That’s BS, really.

The athletes competing in other sports are just as skilled and accomplished as the guys on the gridiron and court, whether they draw large crowds or TV viewership or not. And the fact that BYU recruited those athletes — including football players, though, too — and developed them to a pinnacle that ascended higher than the peaks of any other athletics program in the nation is … what? … remarkable.

The Cougars typically do well in the Directors’ Cup, but never before have they finished atop the standings in the fall or the winter or the combined periods, and that indicates and underscores the prowess of this particular group.

The schools that ended up directly behind BYU were Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State. The second six were North Carolina, Washington, Arkansas, Florida State, Pittsburgh, and Alabama.

That’s saying a little something, mostly that somebody’s doing something right in BYU athletics, primarily the athletes themselves.

Cougars AD Tom Holmoe characterized the achievement as “incredible,” and something of which BYU and its fans can be “proud.”

He’s right.

BYU’s women’s teams in soccer and cross country led the way as national runners-up in their sports. Men’s cross country and women’s volleyball had Top 10 finishes, and football’s Top 20 ranking added to the huge point total.

In an environment in college sports that at times can create a massive pocket of hypocrisy, or at least perception of such, with so much emphasis and energy and money inside a supposed educational setting being placed on and in the aforementioned major sports, it’s heartening to see successes among athletes in sports that aren’t likely to earn them a whole lot of noise or much of a passage on a straight avenue to big paydays. Not that there’s anything wrong with getting rich.

But most of these participants really are students, too, even if they do benefit, in some cases, from the new age of NIL payments. They work their tails off to thrive in their sports, but they make no mockery of the quaint, antiquated term student-athlete, “which,” to quote Carl Spackler, “is nice.”

Recognition here for the Cougars, then. What they accomplished in the fall of 2021 was … what? … exceptional and extraordinary.