Virginia's rapid rise through the Sear's Cup rankings from twenty-second place to eighth in just two years reveals an athletic program remarkable for emphasizing performance in the classroom as well as on the field. The Sear's Cup rankings were reinforced by a major survey conducted by The Sporting News, which placed the University of Virginia eighth among 112 schools on the basis of a mixture of athletic and academic criteria.
Sports Illustrated for Women weighed in by ranking the University thirteenth in a poll of the top colleges for women's athletics. Virginia was recognized for its success across the board in women's athletic competition and its consistent rankings as one of the top public institutions in the nation.
Stand-out teams this year included the men's lacrosse team, which captured the NCAA men's lacrosse title for the first time since 1972. It defeated lacrosse powerhouse Syracuse in a close contest. Both the men's and women's swimming teams took home ACC titles, and swimmer Rebecca Cronk was named the ACC Women's Swimmer of the Year.
In addition, the women's rowing team placed second overall at the 1999 NCAA championship; the women's lacrosse team was the NCAA runner-up; and field hockey advanced to the Final Four.
One reason that the University athletics program has been able to sustain its drive for excellence is the strength and long tenureof its coaching staff. Football coach George Welsh, with the most wins in ACC history, began his eighteenth season at Virginia in 1999. Virginia head women's basketball coach Debbie Ryan, in her twenty-second season at U.Va., crossed the 500-victory mark in February 1999. She guided the team to a twenty-win season for the sixteenth time. Swim team coach Mark Bernardino, a relative newcomer, was named the ACC Men's and Women's Swimming Coach of the Year.
Anchoring the athletic department is U.Va. mainstay, Terry Holland, now in his fifth year as Virginia's athletic director. During his sixteen-year stint as head basketball coach, Holland compiled an enviable record of 326-173.
Responding to this combination of consistency and excellence, University sports fans are more enthusiastic than ever about witnessing the Cavaliers in action. Football season tickets for 1999 sold out well before the first home game and single game tickets also sold out early in the season.