When the U.S. News & World Report rankings come out, it’s no surprise that MIT tops the list for undergraduate and graduate programs in engineering, science and business. Recently, however, the Institute was ranked ninth in the country in Division III in the latest Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup standings, demonstrating that success and achievement for MIT students are not limited to academics.
The Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup is an annual, nationwide award bestowed by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics to the country’s most successful collegiate athletic programs. The NACDA looks at hundreds of athletic programs in each division and assigns each one a national ranking. MIT’s rank has been climbing steadily — from 60 to 37 to 24 over the past three years — making this year’s ranking an exciting but not necessarily shocking achievement.
“I’ve been pleased with our climb in the rankings the last few years,” says Director of Athletics Julie Soriero. “You always want to go higher and higher. I’d like to think this year wasn’t the exception, but I do think we also had an exceptional year.”
This national recognition will be instrumental in marketing the school’s athletics program in the years to come, according to Soriero. It will be especially useful for coaches talking to high school athletes interested in MIT, she says, because the ranking is direct evidence that, in addition to receiving a world-class education, students at the Institute have opportunities to excel outside of the classroom.
Individual successes in sports and in academics all contribute to the larger MIT community, and Soriero is quick to underscore the important role athletics plays in helping to establish and maintain a sense of community on campus.
“Athletics provides a sense of community in the micro and in the macro. It provides a sense of community for the student athletes who compete on a particular team, but I also think it promotes an element of pride for our success,” she says. “We help build a source of pride that’s obvious and measurable.”
Soriero acknowledges the perception of MIT as an “all brains, no brawn” institution, but urges skeptics to look at the school’s athletics program as a part of the larger MIT experience. “When people think of MIT, they should think about achievement and excellence. That extends to academics, that extends to student activities, and that extends to athletics," she says.