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Wake Forest Sports: Why 2016-2017 Was the Best in School History

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The numbers don’t lie, and neither do our memories.

Wake Forest v Indiana Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

What a ride.

We can now officially close the book on the 2016-2017 Wake Forest sports year and all the incredible moments it held for us within it. There were records broken, titles won, and memories archived, but above all there was a sense of excitement around Demon Deacon athletics that tasted more than refreshing compared to recent years. The enthusiasm was well deserved too; few years in school history have yielded such positive results across the board, but particularly with the university’s flagship varsity programs. If it seemed like you had a lot more to cheer about over the last twelve months as a Deacon fan it’s because, well, there WAS a lot more to root, smile, and clap for. And let’s be honest, those cheers at times were exponentially more appreciated due to some of the hardships we had to go through at the beginning of this decade. The lows make you appreciate the highs that much more after all.

But just how great was the 2016-2017 Wake Forest athletic year compared to previous yearlong cycles? Was this truly one of the best twelve-month spans in recent memory or are our expectations somewhat diluted based on previous struggles?

Fortunately, you may recall that I designed a formula last August for the sole purpose of answering this exact question: The DEAC Score. This formula takes into account factors that affect a typical Wake Forest fan’s overall satisfaction, quantifies them, and then puts each statistic into a database to track and compare. It took close to 50 hours for overall data input, testing, and verification, but the result is a reliable and fun way to compare years statistically instead of relying on vacant memories to justify great seasons. Here are some excerpts from the original piece to get you familiar with the formula and what it’s all about.

-The formula focuses on the four sports that commonly receive the most interest year round by the Wake Forest community and also have the most widespread data available online: Football, Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, and Baseball.

-Influential statistics from these four sports were collected to help summarize their seasons from 2000-2016. Factors included: W-L records, records vs. rivals, ACC rank, attendance, recruiting rankings, top 25 wins, players drafted, and postseasons.

-Appropriate values for each of these factors were assigned in a way that ensured standardization and relevant comparisons between sports AND years.

--The formula featured values that could be positive or negative depending on the season’s result (+/- Categories), or simply positive to the final score (Bonus Categories). A fairly average season for a team should finish between 1.5 and 2.5.

-The total of each program’s statistical values for a year would eventually be added up to one final sum appropriately named the DEAC Score Sum. The higher the DEAC Score, the better the year was for Wake Forest sports overall.

If you want to read more about the values, processes, and where they came from, I’ll link you to the original piece here. But now it’s time to see where the 2016-2017 school year stacks up collectively.

What were the final results? Overwhelmingly strong.

Unweighted for preferences to individual sports, the 2016-2017 calendar year comes out to be the best ever for the big four programs combined. Since 2000, this year ranks 6th in football, 8th in basketball, 3rd in soccer, and 2nd in baseball. The cumulative total eclipsed 25.0, which was a first for the database and is more than double the 17 year average of 11.36. This year also marked the 2nd time that every single program increased its DEAC Score year over year, and that feat is shared only because the 2010-2011 season was so bad there was nowhere to go but up in ‘11-’12. Football posted a score nearly 3x higher than its average, baseball more than 4x, and soccer nearly 2x, which is remarkable given how dominant that program has been for the past two decades. So the DEAC Score formula agrees; 2016-17 was a winner. But what other sorts of proof can we use to truly legitimize the unprecedented success of the year? Let’s go into some historical records.

You may have already heard that this year was the first in school history that Football, Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, and Baseball all made the NCAA postseason. In fact, just 3 simultaneous postseasons for those programs had only been done 5 times dating back to 1980. Compare that to the 21 times either 1 or 0 teams have made the postseason and you begin to realize just how rare consensus national success has been in the last 40 years. These four programs earned as many postseason bids in the last 8 months as they did between April 2010 and October 2013. Yeah, I can get used to this.

But the progress on the athletic fields wasn’t just exclusively for the big revenue generating sports this year either. Men’s Tennis won the ACC regular season crown and earned its first ever #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Men’s Golf Team had seven top 3 finishes and was the #2 seed in the Austin Regional of the NCAA Tournament. Women’s basketball made its 2nd straight NIT appearance under Coach Hoover and recorded back-to-back 16 win seasons for the first time since 2009-2010. Women’s Golf had the NCAA Individual Runner Up and 1st Team All-American in Jennifer Kupcho. The on-field victories started early and often and never really slowed down from August to June, and the fan support didn’t falter either as the year progressed.

Men’s sports had a particularly incredible and unprecedented year overall from start to finish. Wake Forest men’s teams are currently slotted at 10th in the annual Capital One Cup standings, which ranks universities in order of most athletic achievements across all varsity sports. Wake ranks 3rd amongst private universities and is surrounded by athletic powerhouses such as Oklahoma, Oregon, Florida, Clemson, and Penn State in the standings. The fact that the Deacs are consistently outperforming public schools with athletic budgets that dwarf our beloved Wake Forest is a testament not just to the talented athletes we are bringing in, but the incredible hires Ron Wellman has made over the last couple of years. Danny Manning, Bobby Muuss, Dave Clawson, Tom Walter, Jen Hoover, Tony Bresky, Jeff Wyshner… the list goes on.

For as much flak as Wellman received for the handling of a certain program seven years ago, he has more than made up for it with recent staffing and fundraising efforts that have made our proud university fundamentally better. Success in college sports ultimately comes down to recruiting, and recruiting is often based heavily on three things: facilities, coaches, and on-field success. In every way possible, those three factors are near the best they’ve ever been at Wake Forest as we conclude another school year, and a lot of that is thanks to RW, hate it or love it. He may not be hitting 1.000 in the batter’s box, but the last couple of years he’s hitting damn near close to it, with more than a couple Home Runs to make you forget the past flaws.

Simply put, the numbers prove this year was one for the ages. But I have yet to even mention probably the most important aspect of what happened to Wake Forest sports this past year, and it has nothing to do with statistics, achievements, or anything quantifiable. The 2016-17 Demon Deacon sports year had more than just big wins, goals, and unprecedented success. It had a level of pride around the university and these teams that was truly glorious to be apart of in the moment, and even more enjoyable looking back on it and how far we’ve come. Deacs across the nation this year didn’t just get to enjoy Wake Forest wins, they got to appreciate them with the comforting sense of “This is here to stay,” and that’s an undervalued trait in sports fandom.

In the recent past we far too often have succombed to telling ourselves we don’t get to enjoy great moments because we were “lucky,” or they would disappear soon, or joy would be followed immediately by inevitable disappointment. Right now, as I’m typing this article on a beautiful June day in Charlotte, the outlook on Wake Forest athletics for the future has truly never been brighter. Students are excited. Alumni are excited. Future Demon Deacons who are just starting to appreciate their love of sports and can now reap joy through watching a Wake Forest game are excited. We’re excited for the future and we’re excited for the opportunity to celebrate with each other. For moments like this:

And this:

And lastly this:

Deacon fans are thrilled not just about the opportunity to cheer on youthful, entertaining teams, but being able to do so with a community of friends and familiar strangers that make up all of us connected to Mother So Dear. It’s never been a better time to be a proud follower and supporter of Wake Forest athletics. That, my friends, is why 2016-2017 was the greatest sports year in school history.

For now...