The two weeks of Jan 7-21 became a theatre of the absurd for most of Notre Dame’s athletic department...

Recent events have overshadowed what a strong fall showing Notre Dame's athletics had from August through December under athletics director Jack Swarbrick.

It began with the 42-14 dismantling from Alabama in the BCS football national title game, morphed into off-the-field angst and negative publicity with head coach Brian Kelly’s interest in the Philadelphia Eagles job and linebacker Manti Te’o’s surreal hoax that is a dream for tabloid fodder, and continued with the sudden departure of one recruit (Alex Anzalone to Florida) while another (junior running back Stanley Williams) never actually made it to campus for an official visit as he reported.

Oh, and the hits just kept coming and spilled over into the still No. 7 hockey team losing its last four contests (one with three seconds left) and reeling men’s basketball trying to find answers after falling in three of its last four contests.

But while Notre Dame won’t necessarily have Paris … it will always have the autumn of 2012 during the 2012-13 school year.

In the Learfield Directors’ Cup rankings, Notre Dame finished the fall sports season No. 4 among both Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs.

A total of 188 schools scored points this fall which featured nine different sports: men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, women’s field hockey, men’s water polo, FBS football and FCS football.

Notre Dame accumulated 353 points (despite not fielding field hockey or water polo) to place behind only perennial champion Stanford (398), Michigan (373) and Florida State (358.50).

The maximum a team can score is 100 points for a national title, and thereafter points are awarded based on runner-up, third place or semifinal, quarterfinal or first-round advancement in NCAA Tournament competition.

Notre Dame scored points in all six fall sports it competes in, with the breakdown as follows:

Football (85) — This was for third place in the final BCS poll (Oregon received 90 for second place). Alabama finished tied for 53rd overall — with all 100 points coming as the national title winner in football.

Our guess is that if Notre Dame fans had a choice between winning the national title in football and not getting points in the other fall sports, a la Alabama, or placing in the top-5 of the Directors’ Cup and in football, 99 percent would take the former.

Women’s Soccer (73) — After a disappointing 10-8-3 campaign in 2011, head coach Randy Waldrum, who directed national titles in 2004 and 2010, regained some of the old mojo by advancing to the Elite 8, highlighted by upsets of top-10-ranked Wake Forest and Florida, before falling 1-0 at Florida State.

Men’s Soccer (64) — Head coach Bobby Clark’s Fighting Irish actually entered as the No. 1 overall seed in the 64-team NCAA Tournament, but lost in the third round to eventual champion Indiana. Ryan Finley and Dillon Powers both were first-round selections in the MLS SuperDraft.

Women’s Cross Country (60) — The 15th-place finish in the NCAA Championship was the program’s highest since No. 7 in 2005. Rebecca Tracy, Gabby Gonzales and Alexa Aragon all placed in the top 100.

Men’s Cross Country (46) — The Irish managed a 28th-place finish at the NCAA Championships despite the absence of All-American Jeremy Rae because of an injury. Junior Martin Grady finished 52nd to lead the team.

Women’s Volleyball (25) — Notre Dame received an at-large NCAA Tournament bid but lost in the first round to No. 14 Ohio State. Sophomores Toni Alugbue and Jeni Houser both were named AVCA honorable mention All-Americans.

Michigan was the lone cold-weather school to do better than Notre Dame in the overall standings.

1. Stanford 398.00 
2. Michigan 373.00  
3. Florida State 358.50  
4. Notre Dame 353.00 
5. North Carolina 342.00  
6. Oregon 334.00 
7. UCLA 331.00  
8. Penn State 323.50  
9. Florida 275.50  
10. Texas 274.00

With the No. 2 women’s basketball program vying for its third straight Final Four, men’s basketball seeking its fourth straight NCAA Tournament bid, hockey still leading the CCHA conference and good ol’ men’s and women’s fencing usually good for a top-3 placement, the Irish should have a pretty good chance to remain in the top 10 of the Learfield Directors’ Cup after the winter season.

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