There should have been absolutely no shame in the Stanford Cardinal falling to the Texas A&M Aggies in the 2011 NCAA women's basketball Final Four.
Not only did TAMU end up going on to beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to win the 2011 NCAA National Championship, but the fact that Stanford's 2011 senior class reached the Final Four in every year of their careers is unquestionably impressive - to reach that level of success in anything as consistently as Stanford has takes a coordinated commitment at all levels of the program.
Yet although the Cardinal women's basketball team fell short of the ultimate goal in college sports, their success has not been lost on the Capital One Cup.
After a loss to Texas A&M in the basketball championships, being one of nine Top 10 finishers in the Stanford Athletics program as a whole this season ultimately helped them beat Texas A&M in the inaugural Capital One Cup.
It might not be much consolation to the Cardinal women's basketball team, but their fourth place finish in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll ended up co-leading the Stanford Athletics program to a Capital One Cup title over Final Four opponent Texas A&M, which came in second.
After a Final Four meeting between Stanford and TAMU that was decided in a frantic final minute of action, the competition between the two continued in the spring NCAA Division I women's championships. The Aggies earned 40 points for their first-place finish at the track and field championships, while the Cardinal finished tied for 8th and earned six points. Without Stanford's second place finish in rowing this Spring, they wouldn't have held the Aggies off.
Stanford will be formally awarded with the Capital One Cup trophy and a $200,000 scholarship at the ESPYs on July 13.
"Our university is very proud of our athletics program and we are pleased that our women's sports have achieved first place in the Capital One Cup," said Stanford Director of Athletics Bob Bowlsby in a release. "On behalf of our coaches and student-athletes we are pleased to accept this award. Thank you to Capital One and its affiliated companies for their support of collegiate athletics."
Fellow Pac-10 program California was within shouting distance in third place, making them one of four Pac-10 programs to finish in the Top 10 in the women's Capital One Cup. Texas A&M is the only school to win two national championships in the 13 sports represented in the Capital One Cup, winning outdoor track and field as well as basketball.
Although Stanford had three second-place finishes in soccer, tennis and rowing, basketball is considered a "Group 1" sport, which gives their fourth place finish more weight than any of Stanford's second place finishes (click here for an explanation). So the women's basketball team ended up tied with women's soccer (Group 2) for 24 points to lead the school to the Capital One Cup title. Women's tennis and rowing - both Group 3 sports - finished with 12 points apiece.
"The Stanford women and everyone who follows the athletics program should be proud of this accomplishment," said Capital One Cup Advisory Board member and former Santa Clara University soccer player, Brandi Chastain in a release. "Winning the Capital One Cup requires commitment, dedication and hard work at all levels of a Division I college athletics program and the Cardinal rose above all other schools to claim the trophy. With nine Top 10 finishes they are extremely deserving of this award."
Women’s Capital One Cup Final Standings
1 – Stanford (121 pts)
2 – Texas A&M (112 pts)
3 – Cal (106 pts)
4 – Florida (86 pts)
5 – Notre Dame (76 pts)
6 – USC (72 pts)
7– Arizona State (60 pts)
7– Penn State (60 pts)
9 – North Carolina (53 pts)
10 – Texas (52 pts)
11 – Baylor (48 pts)