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Best in College Sports: Michigan tears through competition to claim award for 2021-22 athletic season

Best in College Sports: Michigan tears through competition to claim award for 2021-22 athletic season

Consistency is the name of the game each year in CBS Sports’ Best in College Sports rankings, and no team was more dependable across the board across the last athletic season than the Michigan Wolverines. With 588.50 points, the Wolverines soared past Notre Dame to take home the crown for 2021-22, earning the Best in College Sports award for the second time in the last three seasons it has been awarded. UM is the first two-time winner in the award’s eight-season existence.

The Fighting Irish finished second with 512.50 points, while Ohio State was third with 506.75 points. Michigan’s dominance can be contextualized as such: Its 76-point margin over second-place Notre Dame was greater than ND’s margin over fifth-place Arkansas.

Michigan had quite the year athletically. The football team bounced back under coach Jim Harbaugh to finish 12-2 and earn a trip to the College Football Playoff, completing its best season since 2011. Men’s basketball (19-15) reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, while women’s basketball (25-7) reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Wrestling (12-1) finished as the NCAA runner-up, and men’s gymnastics (24-3) finished third nationally.

Even though only two “wild card” sports are counted in our award formula, Michigan also excelled in numerous high-profile sports: men’s ice hockey reached the Frozen Four, women’s gymnastics finished seventh nationally, women’s lacrosse made the NCAA Tournament and both baseball and softball reached their respective NCAA Regionals.   

Georgia, which won the CFP National Championship in football, finished ninth overall after receiving no points in men’s basketball. 

The National Association of College Directors of Athletics (NACDA) has ranked athletic programs for years by weighing every sport equally. (For example: National titles in football and water polo are worth the same number of points.) In 2013, CBS Sports began presenting its Best in College Sports award utilizing a weighted formula that recognizes sports with more broad interest. Every FBS program is rated in three sports — football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball — along with two “wild cards” among the school’s most successful spectator sports: baseball, softball, volleyball, soccer, gymnastics, lacrosse, hockey and wrestling.

The weighted formula puts 2.5 times as much emphasis on football and 2.0 times as much on men’s basketball compared to the rest of the sports. Teams that do not finish in the final AP Top 25 in football but play in a bowl are awarded 62.5 points (25 x 2.5). (Teams that either opted out of bowl games or saw postseason contests canceled received 62.5 points in football.) Those that make the men’s NIT are given 20 points (10 x 2), while WNIT teams receive 10 points. For all titles settled via bracket, such as the NCAA Tournament, point totals are based on number of participants. All champions in the other sports receive 100 points for a national championship in the formula created by long-time CBS Sports producer J. Darin Darst.

2021-22 Best in College Sports

CBS Sports’ Best in College Sports winners

  • 2021-22: Michigan
  • 2020-21: Alabama
  • 2019-20: Not awarded (COVID-19)
  • 2018-19: Michigan
  • 2017-18: Ohio State
  • 2016-17: Florida State
  • 2015-16: Oklahoma
  • 2014-15: Stanford
  • 2013-14: Louisville