By Greg Johnson
The NCAA Men’s Gymnastics Committee at its annual meeting recommended modifying the way team scores will be compiled in the sport. The proposal calls for each team having five competitors perform routines in each event, with all five scores being counted. Previously, teams had six student-athletes perform in each event, but only the top four scores counted in team competition.
The proposal must be approved by the Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet before it becomes effective for the 2013 season. The proposal would not alter the number of student-athletes competing at the National Collegiate Men’s Gymnastics Championships.
Committee members believe the change will help fans follow the teams scoring.
“With five guys competing and all five scores counting, it is fairly simple to follow,” said Mark Williams, committee chair and coach at Oklahoma. “When we have six guys up and two of the scores can be dropped, it isn’t as clear. It is complicated for fans to keep track of how a team is doing.”
Williams said the format change could also add the possibility of more upsets in either dual or multiple-team events.
“We think this evens the playing field between weaker teams and powerhouses,” Williams said. “This way, teams don’t have to have quite as much depth. If someone doesn’t have a strong routine, you can’t drop it from the score like the current system allows.”
The new format puts collegiate gymnastics more in line with international competition, Williams said. In those meets, teams are allowed only three competitors in each event, and all three scores are counted.
“Ultimately, we want to have a better product on the floor,” Williams said. “This way, in terms of student-athlete performances and coaching, everyone has to be better.”
The format resembles what existed in the early 1980s when all five scores counted on each event. “We decided to go back to that, and we will have more drama on the floor because of it,” Williams said.
To give gymnastics programs a chance to transition into the five-up, five-count format, Williams said for the first half of the 2013 season teams will be allowed to have six competitors compete on each event with the lowest score dropped. But after the Winter Cup, which typically occurs in early to mid-February, the five-up, five-count system will go into effect for the rest of the season, including the NCAA championships.
“This gives teams the chance to adjust,” Williams said. “It will give coaches time to evaluate who the best five guys are for each event.”