Spencer Fixes College Gymnastics

Done!

You’re welcome, college gymnastics.

Now that we’re nearly two weeks removed from the college gymnastics season and beginning to remember how to walk on dry land and breathe without an iron lung again, it’s time for my semi-bi-quadri-sorta-annual list of grievances about college gymnastics and what needs to be done to make them…not grievances.

As we know, the coaches are their own worst enemies when it comes to deciding how college gymnastics should be run since they tend to make decisions that are in their own short-term best interests (my team is more likely to make the final if there are six teams) rather than in the long-term best interests of the sport and the fan experience (Super Six is actual trash).

So, I’m taking the decisions out of their hands and just telling them what to do with these few, simple, humble notes on how to stop being the worst and make everything instantly perfect.

POSTSEASON FORMAT

Obviously, the postseason format is a total tear-down. No salvaging this fixer-upper. Raze that garbage.

My proposed format adds a third round of postseason elimination meets (because of more exciting), so I would not be averse to shortening the regular season by one week since the gymnasts don’t need to be competing/traveling more than they already do.

1. Playoff Round – (Teams #9-#40, 8 quad-meet sessions at 4 host sites)

The first round of elimination meets would see the teams ranked #1-#8 receive byes (actual byes) straight through to the round of 16. This provides a much more significant and tangible incentive for regular-season success while also focusing our attention on the teams that actually have something riding on these massive early-round meets.

The remaining 32 teams (ranked #9-#40) will be divided into eight groups of four and will compete in winner-take-all quad meets. Each of the four sites will host two of these meets in a two-session day—mimicking the current format of the SEC and Pac-12 Championships—with a quad session in the afternoon and a quad session in the evening. The winner (and only the winner) of each quad session will advance to the round of 16, making up the remaining eight teams.

This round will take place over two weekends, with each of the four host sites having its own day (Saturday of weekend 1, Sunday of weekend 1, Saturday of weekend 2, Sunday of weekend 2). That way, all of the teams receive a week off, but it’s the not the same week off for each team and doesn’t break up the momentum of the entire sport as much as the current postseason format does. We could even allow teams to apply to compete on a specific weekend if the other conflicts with finals or something. (ah ha ha, school.)

2. National Semifinals – (Teams #1-8 + winners of Round 1, 4 quad-meet sessions at 1 host site)

Now, 16 teams remain and all travel to a single host site for the national semifinals. Yes, 16 teams in the semifinals instead of 12, so don’t complain about fewer opportunities to boast of postseason accomplishments.

The semifinals will be conducted in a single weekend of four quad-meet sessions—Saturday afternoon, Saturday evening, Sunday afternoon, Sunday evening—with only the winners of each session advancing to the four-team national championship.

3. National Championship and Event Finals – (Winners of National Semifinals, 1 quad-meet session at 1 host site)

The national championship weekend itself will consist of a four-on-the-floor final to crown the winner of the national championship on Saturday, followed by a day of event finals on Sunday.

Each event final would have 10 competitors (I know, but I feel like that’s manageable enough), comprised of the top 6 gymnasts on that event in the regular-season rankings, along with one “coaches selection,” one “fan selection,” the winner of that event from DIII nationals, and the winner of that event from the DII/DI USAG nationals.

RQS

We’re done with you, RQS.

This is difficult for me to say because I love RQS and figuring it out via the medium of spreadsheets and calculations, but it really serves very little purpose anymore.

Go to RTN right now and sort via average instead of RQS. It’s not that different. Certainly not different enough to justify a whole system. Simply require teams to compete in a certain number of road meets to prevent home-stuffing schedules, and then use the average.

If you’d like to still drop a high score…I guess fine? It would prevent teams with one random giant home score from using that to pad their averages, but that doesn’t actually happen a whole lot. The teams with silly, giant home scores tend to get them…at every home meet.

I don’t love the idea of dropping a low score because I think teams should have to deal with the consequences of having weak meets. Weak meets aren’t good, and they should be reflected in your ranking. You don’t get a do-over. Suck it up.

6-UP, 6-COUNT

I’m a more recent convert on the all-scores-counting front. I do enjoy the variation in stakes that comes from dropping a score, with the gymnasts not always competing with the same level of pressure or the same amount riding on their routines, but in continuing the theme of not getting a do-over, you don’t get a do-over. You don’t get to say, “That mistake doesn’t count.” It happened. We all saw it.

Competitions should be determined by which team’s lineup performs the best on the day, not which team’s choice-of-five-out-of-six routines performs the best on the day.

Forcing teams to count all routines (and therefore any and all falls) makes the threat of upsets far more real, which is good for the sport. It means that results are less predetermined and that weaker teams have a more realistic shot at upsetting far better teams. The idea that LSU would go to Missouri and could actually, you know, maybe lose makes for a more engaged fan experience. Upsets are good. Inevitable winners are bad.

Not to mention, counting all scores would make everything much clearer for broadcast purposes.

Typically, the case for all scores counting involves a 5-up, 5-count format, but I see no reason to reduce the actual amount of gymnastics we get to see (my main beef with elite’s 3-up, 3-count format), especially with the SEC Network showing how it can be done in a high-tempo fashion in a reasonable time frame.

Yes, by counting six scores per event, all of the total scores would increase, but…so? Do we care? That’s not a reason not to do it. Too often, the argument against improvements is along the lines of, “You’d have to rewrite the record books” (that’s a favorite line of DD Breaux’s), like that’s a thing that matters. Good. Rewrite them. They were getting moldy.

The other main argument I’ve heard against all scores counting is that, in the event of a gymnast getting injured during a routine or Kramarenko-ing vault or something, her team would be automatically out of the competition. To which I say….yeah. That would suck. Welcome to sports.

But, in the interest of concessions, it wouldn’t be that hard to add in a reasonable injury-replacement rule as they have done in men’s NCAA gym if someone gets injured mid-routine and would end up scoring a 1.000.

So…if a gymnast gets injured mid-routine and cannot continue, rather than having to count a 1.000, teams can add a replacement gymnast to perform at the end of the rotation with an automatic 0.5 deduction. There. Done. Easy.

EARLY RECRUITING

No contact at all before sophomore year of high school. No visits (official or unofficial) before junior year of high school. No verbal offers of scholarship before junior year of high school.

UNEVEN BARS

My two main side-eyes against the uneven bars right now concern the lack of same-bar releases and the shortness of many of the highest-level routines (hi, you’re doing three skills). So, here we go.

1) Routines without a same-bar release start from 9.950

I like this better than simply requiring a same-bar release because it forces a strategic decision and risk assessment to be made.

On vault, the question of whether to go for the Y1.5 or stay with the Yfull (each decision with its own pros and cons) has revitalized the event and made it the most interesting to watch in terms of lineup decisions instead of the most boring. By allowing gymnasts to perform routine without a same-bar release, though with a very small penalty, we’d add that same strategic intrigue and decision-making to bars. Make the coaches earn their money.

2) Downgrade the double layout and full-twisting double tuck to D

In general, I’d like to see a few more skill values on bars match their elite counterparts, especially the skills that are nearly ubiquitous in NCAA and are expected for NCAA-level gymnasts, like the giant full.

But most of all, I’d like to see the common dismounts, DLO and double tuck 1/1, become D instead of E. With them as E skills, it becomes far too easy for gymnasts with those dismounts to get their 0.5 bonus. They can do it in very few skills, making the routines too short and basic.

3) Transitions from low to high must involve flight

You’re a grown-ass adult. Get to the high bar like one.

4) Downgrade the overshoot-not-to-handstand from C to B

It’s fugly. And that’s more than reason enough.

I don’t want to get rid of it entirely (as elite has done) because I don’t need this to become elite where there are only two transitions from high to low. You’re free to do the skill, but you certainly shouldn’t be rewarded with connection bonus for forcing that nonsense upon us. Downgrading the skill to a B takes care of that problem.

BALANCE BEAM

1) Obviously, acrobatic series must display rebounding action in one direction

Using aerial + back handspring as an acro series is a cheap cop-out, and I hate it. That’s not an acrobatic series. It’s neither a series nor particularly acrobatic. Aerial + I’m slowly bending so you have to give me series credit + back handspring is nothing. It’s two separate skills.

Even worse, it doesn’t display the proper amount of fall-risk. Falls are good; they make competitions more interesting. The rules should force teams to risk falls, not create loopholes for them to avoid falls.

2) Dismount gainer pike or gainer layout 1/1 to side of beam, start from 9.950

Much like not doing a same-bar release on bars, performing one of the less complex gainer dismounts on beam is an exercise in evading deduction risk as these dismounts are much more commonly stuck than their peers.

You’re free to do it, but your routine is not going to be evaluated at the same level as a routine dismounting with a double tuck.

Another option here is simply to say that all B/C dismounts (not directly connected out of a D acro) make routines start from 9.950. The only complication there is that I take no issue with the 2/1 dismount out of a round-off, which is currently a C. That dismount can stay, so I’d actually be fine with bumping the 2/1 up to a D if we’re moving to discourage all C dismounts.

3) Like, maybe start deducting for lack of 180-degree splits?

Just spit-balling here.

FLOOR EXERCISE

1) No E pass, start from 9.950

I think anyone who watched this NCAA season would recognize that floor scores are way, way too high. They’re out of whack compared to every other event, particularly vault. (E.g., the #20 RQS on vault this year was 49.055, while the #20 RQS on floor was 49.205. Beam was 49.095, and bars was 49.145.)

By saying that routines without E passes start from 9.950, I recognize we’d make a heavy majority of floor routines start from 9.950, which is good. That would effectively bring the scores back into line with vault, where a heavy majority of routines currently start from 9.950. Particularly in a 10.0 system, one event shouldn’t be scoring that much higher than other events.

2) Routines must show 180-degree cross split

That should be the most basic expectation for gymnasts at this level.

Currently, leap series must include a 180-degree split in cross or side position, leading to a lot (and I mean a lot) of switch side + popa combinations, especially for gymnasts who aren’t so much with the dance elements. Gymnasts should have to show a cross split. If they can’t do that correctly, they shouldn’t be able to get a 10.

3) Routines must include a forward element, a backward element, and a double salto, all in tumbling lines

Floor exercises should include a basic display of the breadth of tumbling, and gymnasts should be evaluated on their proficiency in all of these areas, not just a variation on the same tumbling pass three times in a row.

4) Can we do something about the wedgies and the visible underwear/private areas?

I’m not in favor of instituting actual rules to govern people’s appearances.

My view is, look however the hell you want. I’m probably going to make fun of it later, but it’s your right as a person to dress like a damn fool if you want to. Cover your body in temp tattoos, wear a billion ribbons, dip your face in glitter. I can say something about it (and will), but I can’t do anything about it and shouldn’t be able to. You do you. I don’t get to dictate what you do with yourself.

But at the same time, just…have some self-respect and tape your booty away. Please. For me.

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83 thoughts on “Spencer Fixes College Gymnastics”

    1. I noticed one of the worst wedgie offenders got her booty pretty well covered towards the end of the regular season. I like to think she heard us and taped her ass accordingly.

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  1. Lots of great stuff in here, Spencer, but you know that! My thoughts:

    1. Competition Format: Absolutely spot on. Nothing I would change.
    2. Event finals. Rather than having a fan choice and a coaches choice, could we just say the two people with the highest average score from the regular season not in the top six to qualify make it? I like that idea because it gives meaning to the regular season (a big problem now, in my opinion) and it gives some sort of cushion for if something catastrophic happens during the qualifying. Maggie Nichols should be able to qualify for beam final even if she falls on qualifying day because I want the best routines in there, and she has one of the best routines even if she had an error on qualifying day.
    3. Bars: I’m not a fan of requiring a single bar release. Do we really want to say that someone who does a Bhardwaj has an easier routine than someone who does a straddled Tkachev? What about people like Hundley and Kocian who do shap halfs? Rather than requiring single bar release, how about we say you have to do an E release or else you start from 9.95? In my opinion this would still reward difficulty while allowing more variation and creativity.
    4. Beam: Same deal. Rather than saying lack of E dismount, how about you have to do an E element of some kind or else you start from a 9.95? If you do a standing arabian, but still have a gainer full, I think you should start from a 10.
    5. Floor: Totally agree with everything.

    Let me know your thoughts guys!

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    1. I said it before, but I’ll repost my thoughts on Event finals here:

      The Top 8 gymnasts on each event and the top eight AAers during the regular season should be in the NCAA championship. Then take the top gymnast in EACH of the conferences NOT represented in the top eight.

      This makes the regular season count for something and makes coaches and gymnasts make lineup decisions knowing it could affect post-season performance.

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    2. “Even if Maggie Nichols falls in qualifications she should make finals” is the thought process that is so wrong. You have 1 chance to qualify. Because you are a perceived favourite doesn’t mean you get preferential treatment. Name another time that gymnasts get 2 chances to qualify?

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  2. Sorry but fan choice is the worst idea ever. This is what turns gymnastics from a legitimate sport into American idol. Already it doesn’t get enough respect in the sporting world and you want a bunch of fans who arbitrarily get behind one gymnast and promote the shit out of them, let’s say on a certain podcast known for its continual bias, to get to decide who gets to compete for a national title? That’s ridiculous.
    You have to stand up and take your chance on the day. Like you said, no do-overs. Maggie Nichols falls on beam in quals? Then that’s it! She doesn’t become national champion. I don’t remember the fans trying to vote Jordyn Wieber into the Olympic AA final.

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    1. To play devil’s advocate, this could potentially increase schools’ interest in their own teams. You could make a Cal into a LSU if they think their voice counts. Also, we’ve all had situations where we’ve thought: “Jeez, if that team was in any other regional, so-and-so would be doing her amazing routine at nationals.” This allows us to band together and recognize someone who otherwise might not get the chance to compete

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    2. Agreed. This is NCAA athletics. Fans shouldn’t vote on teams or individuals making the post-season. It would turn it into a popularity contest. Just look at the “routine of the week” polls throughout this season on this site. Ex-elites and UCLA/Florida/OU gymnasts would get in all the time. “And none for Skinner” — pulling a Mean Girls reference in.

      There’s a reason fans don’t vote on which teams make the college football playoffs or March Madness. Doing so would just strengthen the argument that gymnastics is purely subjective and not a “true sport.”

      You want to give fans a voice — create an award that fans can go vote on, just don’t let fans have a direct impact on qualifying to Nationals. Good God, have you read some of the comments on various gym boards? Some of those people shouldn’t be allowed to leave their house let alone actually vote for something.

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  3. the one thing i don’t quite agree with is requiring a double salto on floor. i already think elite requiring it is a bit on the harsh side when a) not even the mag code did it until this quad and even this quad only takes 0.3 if you don’t have one, and b) the lowest double salto is a D, which is okay-ish to require in elite, but not really in college, that in your scenario would take 0.05 from the lack of an E pass anyway.

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  4. I don’t think .05 is enough incentive – make it a full tenth. Yurchenk full should be 9.0 – same for you other great suggestions.

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    1. You mean it should be 9.9?

      See I like the .05 difference. College is about clean routines, not difficulty. Making it .05 difference means it’s only worth upgrading if you can perform the harder skill as cleanly as the less difficult skill. If it’s .1 difference, a stuck Y Full would score worse than a 1.5 with a small hop. I don’t think that’s right.

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  5. For individuals, I think the top 32 all-arounders and specialists on each event not on qualifying teams should qualify to the first round. The top all-arounder not on the qualifying team and top finisher on each event not on the qualifying team or the all-arounder should qualify to the next round with each team. For the semi-finals, since 8 teams have byes, the top eight non-qualifying all-arounders and specialists on each event from the regular season who didn’t otherwise qualify in the first round should qualify.

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    1. So 40 teams + 32 AA qualifiers + 32 event specialists? Isn’t that nearly all of Div 1 gymnastics? Post-season should be special and reserved for the best teams and athletes. Not everyone should qualify.

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  6. I would like to see judges be able to separate scores. Allow them to score by 0.25; thus, an athlete could get a 9.85, 9.875, 9,90, 9.925, etc. Yes, we would have to get used to seeing new averages, but it would allow judges to actually rank routines.

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  7. finally, something actually constructive to think about! i like all the ideas, but i too am not for ‘fan’ or even ‘coaches’ choices. the event finals should be a mixture of season best qualifiers, national qualifiers (not already qualified in the formally mentioned… ), and the 2 lower division title holders… and when judges don’t do their jobs, as often, there will be tiebreaks based on execution down the line of judges, perhaps that will cause them to differentiate initially and just, but a maximum of 10 in each event final… and yes, bring back event finals! I’m not certain about any kind of AA title tho… either a separate competition for just that?! or just a season high average determines it… but its NCAA, so it only about the team right?! i love the multi madness of a round robin tourney, and staggering it thru the brackets for teams… but there would have to be a way to ensure individuals advance to AA even without powerhouse teams. thats my only concern. your thoughts on a AA title Spencer?! or did i miss that above?

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  8. Love the idea of a tournament for post season and the 4 team final. Like most of your ideas about updating skill requirements. Hate the idea of a 6 up/6 count because we would end up with a bunch of cookie cutter gymnastics with athletes only competing bare bones routines that met the basic minimum required. Loathe the idea of fans voting for anything that affects the eventual outcome of well…anything.

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    1. Agree with everyone who’s pointed out that coaches’ and fans’ choice is a terrible idea. It just privileges athletes with 1) name recognition from their elite days, 2) big schools with highly involved fans, and 3) instagram game.

      I think 5 up/6 count is also really important for team dynamics. As is, if a team has to count a fall, it means that TWO people fell so the blame and shame is spread around. 6 up/6 count would add insane amounts of pressure.

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    1. I’m not a fan. The D2/D3 teams will consistently be at the bottom. I would rather see a fringe D1 team make Nationals. For example, I would feel bad if a TWU or Bridgeport makes Nationals over a Kentucky or Washington.

      Also, is there something in the NCAA bylaws that prevents a team from competing in two national championships for the same sport with the same team, but in different divisions? If not, it seems there should be.

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      1. Still the same — I don’t think someone should be able to compete at two national championships for the same sport.

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      2. Right now, they can compete at two national championships, so would you change this about the current set up?

        I like giving the idea of giving the Sasha Tsikhanovich, Majesta Valentine, and Brianna Comport-types a chance.

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      3. @Anonymous

        Yes, athletes should compete at one Nationals. Gymnastics already blurs the line a bit with the rankings. In my mind, there’s a reason a team is D1 or D2 and they should compete at their level. If you want to compete at D1 Nationals, you need to be on a D1 team.

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  9. A lot of the things you mentioned are really good and insightful in principle, but I worry that in practice they’ll lead to a lot more injuries. Specifically pretty much everything you justified with “this is gymnastics. You can’t fall/etc. Deal with it.” Implementing these changes would mean that in many cases gymnasts would have to work a lot harder, which is great, but it could come at the expense of their health and also their academics/life outside of gymnastics.

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    1. Yeah. This isn’t elite where gymnastics is their life. This is NCAA where their bodies have changed and they have commitments to college classes. A lot of these ideas make me worry about injuries.

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  10. I don’t know how I feel about requiring single-bar releases. Instead, I’d suggest removing “two D flight elements” from fulfilling “up to competitive standard.” This will take away routine compositions that only contain a Shaposhnikova variation to Pak/Bail + dismount.

    Personally, I’d love to see more people take advantage of using “two E skills” to fulfill competitive standard. No one is doing E pirouettes (like Stalder 1/1 or Endo 1/1 or Ono or Jam). They could provide some beautiful variations and still have the added risks of late handstand deductions.

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  11. If they just modified the rules for judges to actually take the correct deductions, then you would not need all these modifications. Do not allow judges to take up to 0.3 for a balance error. Make it like elite 0.1, 0.3 or 0.5. That would force them to take 0.1 on a small wobble, rather than 0.05 or 0.025 like some of these dumbasses like to do. The scores on floor are so high because the deductions are not taken. Go back and watch any floor that does a switch side to popa. 95% of the gymnasts are doing a switch side and over turning it, which then creates a straddle half, which is no longer C+C causing no bonus or dance bonus. But every judge gives it credit. Those who do not want to give it credit, dare not to, because they would be murdered by every coach, ever.

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  12. “So…if a gymnast gets injured mid-routine and cannot continue, rather than having to count a 1.000, teams can add a replacement gymnast to perform at the end of the rotation with an automatic 0.5 deduction. There. Done. Easy.”

    I like this idea!!!

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  13. The challenge is that we would like to keep women’s gymnastics and there are only so many elite level athletes to go around. Teams that are using l10s and 9s (and sometime 8s) struggle under the current rules. The further you drive them down, the more likely the ADs will say not competitive, cut the program. We need to find a system that grows the program not eliminates it. It is such a wonderful experience for women. Let’s not beat up on the majority to solve a problem at the 1% level. (I do like your playoff scenario)

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  14. Other suggestions:
    1) I wasn’t a fan of downgrading the FTY. I was in favor of a team being required to show 2 or 3 different types of vaults in a lineup or take a .2 deduction at the end. (Some FTYs are stunning, let’s be real)
    2) An E pass required for a perfect 10.0 is an interesting idea. I’d like to see how that plays out.
    3) In your #9-40 scenario, are teams assigned using the S-curve pattern? (I assume so, but I don’t recall it being explicitly written).
    4) The regular season MUST count for something. I love the idea of the true bye (it happens in most other sports tournaments). I also think if you’re in the top 3 on an event at the end of the season you should automatically qualify for EF. It would be bullshit to average (or RQS) a 9.95 on an event all season, then at nationals you do well but get a crabby judge, and because you only went 9.9125 you miss out. That’s ridiculous. Which leads me to…
    5) BRING BACK EVENT FINALS! Easily one of my favorite parts about Nationals. I get to cheer for that one girl from that one team who I don’t really hate, even though I hate her team. Gymnasts chuck extra difficulty, there isn’t a history of big injuries at event finals, and it’s a fun, low-key way to end the season.
    6) My most revolutionary idea: Rather than 6 vs. 6, have gymnasts from competing teams go one at a time. Your 6th best vs. my 6th best, all the way up to your best on each event vs. my best on each event. The score-building in the current format is so artificial. Put up against the best another team has to offer.

    AAAAAND GO!

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  15. I agree with nearly everything you said, Spencer, with a few modifications, many of which have already been stated by others.
    Modifications:
    -no coaches’ or fans’ pick for event finals
    -instead of requiring a same-bar release, just take out “a minimum of 2 D release skills” as a way to meet the composition requirements on bars
    -make an exception to your proposed gainer rule on beam for gymnasts who do an E acrobatic element
    -in addition to requiring an E pass and a double salto on floor, change the requirements for 2-pass routines

    I’m not 100% sure exactly what change I think should happen on that last point. I just think 2-pass routines need to have stricter acrobatic requirements in some fashion because under the current rules, you could meet the requirements by doing a front handspring+front layout 2/1 as one pass and a double tuck for the other. If everybody, even people with 3 passes, has to do an E pass and a double salto to start from 10.0, I think a bit more should be required of a 2-pass routine than just adding a very simple connection into the E pass.

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    1. Wouldn’t only doing front layout 2/1 and double tuck as the two passes miss the combo pass requirement? I think I’d be okay with two-pass routines if one pass must have double salto and both passes must include E or D w/ 0.2 CV.

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    2. Front handspring+front layout 2/1 would get 0.20 CV because it is A+E. To me, adding a front handspring to the beginning of that layout 2/1 is not adding enough difficulty to justify being able to do one less pass. I’m sort of okay with the 2-pass requirements in the current rules (although ideally I’d like them to be a bit more difficult even in the current rules), but it would all fall apart for me if they moved to requiring an E pass and a double salto in all routines and then left the 2-pass requirements. Just doing the most basic, simple passes necessary to meet the requirements for a 3-pass routine and then throwing a front handspring on the front of one of your passes doesn’t earn you the right to do only 2 passes in my opinion.

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      1. I thought the code just said “flight element” and didn’t specify that it had to be without hand support. Even if it has to be without hand support, though, I’m still not really a fan of being allowed to use two of the most basic passes necessary to satisfy the minimum requirements and then just tack a front tuck onto one and then get to do only 2 passes.

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      2. A+E acro bonus would need to saltos. Front and back handsprings do not count for direct bonus connections on floor.

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  16. I love all of these ideas. The aerial + back handspring connection is such a joke. I can’t believe judges give some of them credit for a connection. Floor scores are way to high. I like the E pass or 9.95 start value idea a lot.

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  17. >>No visits (official or unofficial) before junior year of high school.

    I would allow unofficial visits the summer before junior year, as that is when lots of parents begin taking their kids around to check out college campuses to give them something to think about before taking SATs, etc.

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  18. A lot of these changes sound like a ton of torn ACLs waiting to happen. Especially considering these are gymnasts who are older and competing every week. The single bar release requirement I’m okay with because seriously, UCLA, get with it, but the E pass on floor just sounds scary to me. I don’t want to see gymnasts chucking skills they maybe shouldn’t be doing just to get a 10.0 start value. To me, that’s not what college gymnastics is about.

    I also worry some of this would also kill some of the increasing parity in college gymnastics. And by increasing, I mean we’re now up to 6 whole teams who have won a championship. Things are getting better though, if you look at a team like Denver or Washington and how competitive they’ve become. By increasing the difficulty too much you start to favor the teams with former elites, who seem to go to the same four schools. I can live with a gainer full dismount if it gets me more parity and intact achilles. The super six and byes can die in a fire though.

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    1. I agree. Former elites basically decide between Florida, UCLA, LSU and OU, with the occasional one picking Utah or Stanford. These suggestions would force teams like Alabama/Denver/Washington to push their former level 10s to try and do difficulty that is beyond them and will lead to injuries and I don’t want NCAA to become an injury factory.

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      1. Former elites choose the schools you mention right now. It used to be Georgia, Alabama, and UCLA pulling all the elites. Sports are cyclical and LSU, OU, UF, etc. won’t always pull the elites. Every team will have a down year at some point.

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      2. Ummm, I wouldn’t group Bama in with Washington and Denver. Maybe you are new to NCAA, but BAMA routinely has former elites — Winston, Desch, Key, and Ernst to name a few.

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  19. I’d like to add a requirement to show all 4 vault families in a line up or loose .3ish off the team score. Too many Y1/1.5s. I’d also reward difficulty in event finals.

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  20. Also, had lines to the vault landing mat and take automatic deductions for go over the lines or not getting enough distance. NCAA men already do this, so it wouldn’t be new to NCAA,

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  21. I kind of don’t understand everyone’s disgust with no single bar release routines. I personally think Kocian’s routine of “shaposh- pak salto, -shaposh half” is much more interesting and difficult than the majority of routines that are “reverse hecht-bail-dismount”. I understood when people were upset about McMurtry’s 2015 bar routine, but for me the minimum of two D releases fixes that.

    Obviously, many people have already shared their disgust of having a coaches and fan pick for EF and I strongly agree. Also, I don’t love the idea of making regular season rankings determine event final qualification. I’m ok with using regular season rankings to help teams qualify in earlier rounds (I actually love the idea of the top 8 teams receiving a bye in the first round), but I think to actually make a finals round, whether it be for the team or individual, you need to perform well on the actual qualification day. One of the toughest parts of sport is being able to perform your best at the biggest competitions. For instance, in swimming you could be the world record holder, but if you false start in semi-finals it doesn’t matter and you don’t qualify to finals. Likewise, athletes shouldn’t be given a free pass based on past competitions, what should matter is the actual competition they are competing in. In my opinion, this makes the competition more exciting and allows for upsets.

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    1. I agree with everything you said about EF. A gymnast should have to hit when it counts to make EF. Athletes are used to this format. You can be the best gymnast in the world and not make an Olympic final. The same should be true for NCAA EFs.

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  22. Great read with good comments. How about changing the awards at the end of the Nationals??? It’s absolutely ridiculous as is. To award 8 places for each event is simply too much. “There’s a 6-way tie for 5th place…” WHO CARES????? Get rid of that nonsense. Award and recognize the top three on each apparatus and get it over with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What would really be revolutionary is not having to wait 30 goddamn minutes after competition ends for the awards ceremony. It’s 2017. We all have the scores pulled up on our phones. Let’s get on with it!

      Liked by 1 person

  23. I have read through all of the above comments several times now and while I’m not an expert, I have followed NCAA gym for about 11 years. I do think some extra credit should be given for difficulty. Examples are McMurtry floor – amazing — Peng’s bars. A travesty in scoring under this umbrella was the Oregon/Utah meed where McMIllan scored higher than SKinner on floor with a Rudy as the final pass. Yes she did a great job but so did Skinner and if it’s apples to apples the content was far beneath. Also the floor spin is not difficult – yes entertaining and a crowd fav but seriously – put the content of the two routines side by side and there was not comparison. Also – Maggie’s beam compared to others – content should count for something. Maggie packs so much into that routine that she should get some credit for difficulty. I understand the Elite vs NCAA thing but even the Level 10 athletes are competing more difficulty than say 3 years ago. OK – go ahead and rip me apart – I can take it. Love this blog by the way. I have learned so much from it. Appreciate not only SPencer but the regular contributors (Keep GOing Mary!) Looking forward to next year.

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  24. If we’re going to go to an all scores count format, I say definitely 5-count and not 6-count, especially with your suggestion of not dropping the low score. We already have a ton of teams who can’t put together 6-person lineups.

    I’m also not a fan of the .5 penalty if you need to use a replacement athlete in the case of an injury. In what other sport do you get a hit to your score for needing to replace an athlete for that? They’ll already, we assume, have a weaker routine going up anyway.

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    1. I actually don’t think the 0.5 penalty is different from what other sports do in case of injury. Most sports allow you to replace the athlete, but you are responsible for taking the hit of what happened during the play in which the athlete became injured. For example, if an outfielder in a baseball game is trying to catch a hit ball and falls in the process, hurting himself, the play continues and all runners are allowed to continue to advance. Someone who is much farther away from the ball is going to have to run and get it because the injured player can’t, and it will almost certainly result in the offensive team doing better than they would have on that play had the fielder not been injured. The same is true in basketball, football, etc. Track is even more harsh in that a runner who is injured and cannot continue the race simply gets listed as “did not finish” with no opportunity to make up for the lost chance at winning the race.

      If what you’re proposing is that a gymnast who becomes injured and says she cannot continue be replaced by another gymnast who starts with no deductions to the individual or team score, I think that would lead to some abuse of the rule. Specifically, I think we’d see a huge rise in the number of falls that were immediately followed by an athlete dropping to the ground and saying that she is hurt and can’t finish the routine. If the rule permits you to erase a fall by saying that you got injured and need someone to fill in for you, why not do it? The 0.5 deduction seems fair, especially since I can’t recall ever seeing an athlete become injured and unable to continue without a fall being involved. The 0.5 deduction isn’t really for needing a replacement, it’s more for the fall that caused the need of the replacement.

      One minor change I would make, though, is that the 0.5 deduction should be taken from the team’s total score on the event, not from the individual score of the replacement athlete. It doesn’t seem right to me for the replacement athlete’s average/RQS to take a hit because her routine happened to be replacing a routine in which someone had fallen and gotten hurt.

      Liked by 1 person

  25. Not necessarily pertaining to this exact post, but just venting in general.. I feel like there’s no point in regionals. Just take the top however many teams at the end of the season to nationals. Same for individual finals. Especially when a top ranked team goes and gets 3rd at regionals & doesn’t qualify to nationals, even when they get a higher team score than 2 lower ranked teams that finished 1,2 at another regional competition.

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    1. I’m not sure, it is the same in every sport. There is a mind set to the post season. I was an NCAA swimmer and there were a lot of athletes that had the top times going into post season but did not make it to nationals. Pacing yourself is a huge talent. You need to stay near the top but not necessarily at the top. The goal is to be in the top 36, then 2 at regionals and then the top 3 in you ncaa semi. The true solid mind then pulls it all together at the final. Look at LSU and Oklahoma. That is a prime example. Back to swimming, Michael Phelps just needed to be in the top 8 to make the final then he poured it on and won. This is where coaching comes to play. I think Regionals are valid and should stay.

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  26. A note about increasing the difficulty requirements for a 10 SV:

    There must be a way for routines that go above and beyond to earn higher scores. With the current code, the only option judges have for ranking routines is to evaluate execution more leniently for more difficult routines. And they are doing this (Case in point: Ohashi’s beam 10 with a wobble).
    I am not a fan of this method! It gives rise to crack scores and opens the door for inconsistent scoring across the board. If we gave the judges a method for ranking routines by difficulty on the SV side of things, maybe, just maybe, they would lay off the crack.

    As for injury potential – look at what is happening on vault. Many gymnasts are sticking with their Y-full, and aiming for perfection. Only the athletes with plenty of power and technique are throwing 1.5 or DTY. Some gymansts are looking to other families of vaults to find a 10 SV that they can safely and reliably compete.
    My point is that not everyone is trying to chuck the difficulty in order to get the 10. Instead, the harder or more interesting vaults are getting the higher scores that they deserve.
    I think this has been a successful tweek of the code, and I agree with Spencer that something similar is needed for each of the other events.

    Side note – what do you all think about the front double full on floor being worth an E? I’m never impressed or excited to see them.

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  27. Everyone is freaking out about the added difficulty leading to girls chucking skills. Um, last I checked, majority of gymnasts in NCAA still vault Y Fulls… .05 isn’t worth it to “chuck” a skill. A double arabian with an uncontrolled landing would score worse than a Rudi with a controlled landing. Plenty of Level 10’s throw big skills, even ones that go to lower level schools. The problem with Elite is that it requires you to throw 8 super tough skills per routine times three events (plus vaults of death).

    Spencer points out that floor scores are ridiculous and then offers a reasonable solution.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. To be honest, they should do like actual vault start values, like the elite cop. This should prevent more gymnasts for feeling they have to chuck the harder skills. Also, they should have judges be able to type 3 numbers (all season or in post-season) because it gets people ready for Nats.

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  29. Wow! Lots to think about. I willing to at least consider most of it. Two big beefs and one questionable one.

    1. Dropping a score is what makes gymnastics a team sport. It’s late lineup positions going all-out or conservative. It’s the thought of having your teammates’ backs, making up for their mistakes. It’s also more fun and more human. It’s being able to take a small amount of risk in your routine. It’s being able to be have the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, you are never completely alone in fault for a low score. Take that dropped score away and all you’re doing is adding scores of individuals, you have no ability to truly help each other.
    (That said I do kinda like the suggestion up above somewhere to make it a best-of-24 meet, with a point to each routine that scores higher, first vault versus first vault, second vault versus second vault, etc.)

    2. Average instead of RQS is an interesting move, and having at least the option to qualify to EF from season scores rather than semifinals is an interesting move, but the combination has some problems. Like, if Maggie Nichols is #1 in the country on beam and had a shaky warm-up, do you just not have her compete the last meet of the season rather than risk lowering her average? I think RQS could be 8 instead of 6, but I like the idea that you can play around with lineups and routine compositions early in the season without ruining your chances to make Nationals, and that late in the season you can only improve your RQS, you can’t decrease it.

    3. Moving more events to 9.95 SVs for not going above and beyond is a really interesting question. I personally like that a basic routine done truly flawlessly can still get a 10. That feels right to me and what college should be about. If you want to reward E skills, you could say an E skill on beam or floor gets 0.05 taken off your deductions. So you are allowed one tiny mistake if you have an E skill. I’d be ok with that, with creating that tradeoff. But I want to reward stellar non-elite level gymnastics too. That seems to be to be at the heart of college gymnastics.

    My two cents.

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    1. The thing about the RSQ is that it is an equalizer. Most teams get at least one totally off the charts crazy score. Having to drop that score and have to use at least 3 away scores brings the placement closer to reality. Just averaging rewards the wackadoodle scores. Leave the rsq alone

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  30. I’d like to see a deduction for clown hair. If your hair is too messy for your job at Wal-Mart, it should not be on the floor at competition.

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    1. Let’s leave the snarky comments out of this. She is a lovely gymnast to watch. If you are going to be nasty about it. What about Dani DeSaints. Dejesus from last year. And there are a bunch more. Let’s leave this where it should be

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Personal attacks about a gymnast’s appearance are uncalled for. I don’t understand why people think it’s fun (or funny) to bring someone else down merely because you don’t like their looks. Kindness goes a long way.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. I agree with the two above commenters that this is really not appropriate. Constructively criticizing a particular gymnast’s form or routine composition without personal attacks is one thing. Making snide comments about how a gymnast looks like a clown or is not even acceptable to appear for a job at Wal Mart (an insult I find to be rather classist) is crossing a line.

      I will say, though, that I’m not really a fan of how Jj chose to make this point. I don’t think you make the strongest argument against personal attacks on gymnasts’ appearances by naming other gymnasts whose looks we might also attack.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Point taken. Kari is one of my favorite athletes and I let my annoyance get the best of me. Apologies to the other two gymnasts. It just seems that the Utah team took a lot of hits this year. Let’s hope that next season everyone is less hurtful in their comments. I know I’ll make a point of it

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I appreciate your reply, Jj. I also love Kari’s beautiful gymnastics and am very sad that she didn’t have the opportunity to compete all four events in the post season. Here’s wishing her and all other NCAA gymnasts a great 2018 season!

        Liked by 1 person

  31. Spencer – nice job as a start to fix what should be a sport that draws as much attention as other NCAA sports do considering the talent of the women. Here are some suggestions at improving it (probably much to the dismay of the old, staid, guard). I agree, ALL 6 scores count, period! You’re a D-I athlete, your scores count, period. Missed free throws count in basketball, errors count in baseball. These are D-I athletes, put the same pressure on all competitors.

    1. Post-Season Change (a hybrid of D-I men’s and women’s basketball and men’s baseball). To begin, eliminate one week of regular season play. Eliminate the archaic RQS (Geeze, what other sport could you go undefeated and NOT get an NCAA berth or not win a meet and get an NCAA bid). All meet scores count, throwing out ONE high team score and ONE low team score with a maximum of THREE home meet scores. Heck, yes, bad meets should count. We should reward a SEASON, ,not less than half of it.

    Now for the post-season change. We are going to 48 teams in what is called a “Regional”. To begin, remember how much attention the NCAA men’s basketball “Championship Week” gets BEFORE the actual tournament. Take a page and learn from it. First off, NCAA D-I schools ONLY. If you choose to go D-II or D-III, STAY THERE in the post-season. Winners of the Big-12, SEC, PAC-12, Big-10, EAGL, MAC and ECAC championship meets all get bids to Regionals. Combine the MRGC and MPSF as an additional conference. Conferences require 5 teams to get an automatic bid. Imagine the intensity of a Conference Championship of the supposed lower scoring conferences if an NCAA bid is on the line. You get instant attention in all the mid-majors and probably more TV/ESPN coverage if a bid was on the line.

    Relax all you big scoring schools, you’ll be OK. We now have 8 automatic bids. For the other 40+ bids (you will have teams that would have qualified through season average anyway), take the highest season average score of the next 40+ schools that haven’t already secured an automatic bid (again, NO D-II or D-III).

    The “Regional” round has 12, 4-team meets. Spread out over a weekend, this could be “ESPN-2 Gymnastics Weekend”. The highest 12 seeds, regardless of Conference are rewarded and have the option to host a “Regional”. Seeding is simple (1, 16, 17, 48) for Regional-1, (2, 15, 18, 47) for Regional-2, etc. Put a seed number on TV, next to the name of the school so the novice can understand if an upset is brewing. Create drama! The top TWO teams in each regional advance to the “Super Regionals”. Oh, how intense the final rotation would be for that 2nd bid to advance.

    Have 6, 4-team “Super Regionals” the following weekend. Use the same awarding process that is used today for sites. Teams only with Top-6 season scoring averages are allowed to HOST a Super-Regional. Reward a full season’s consistency. Move teams around if you have to (it’s what the NCAA men’s basketball tourney does). The top-2 scoring teams in each “Super Regional” advance to the 12-team “NCAA Women’s Gymnastics World Series” the following weekend. Have two 6-team sessions on Friday, with the top-3 teams in each session advancing to Sunday’s Finals.

    This format creates opportunity for upsets and gives more girls a chance to shine on a big stage. BTW: This format can improve the mid-majors and gives all teams a dream as the season started, instead of bending over backwards for the “elite” schools.

    I’ve run this by a few D-I judges, they all liked it and a couple said it helps level the playing field a touch. OK, have fun, rip it apart.

    R

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    1. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not a fan of the inclusion of 48 teams in regionals. You brought up NCAA men’s basketball. In the NCAA, there are 347 division I men’s basketball teams, 65 of which make the NCAA tournament. This is less than 20%, making it a significant accomplishment to qualify to the tournament. In women’s gymnastics, there are 63 division I teams. If 48 qualify to regionals, over 75% get to go. I feel that the post season should be reserved for a smaller portion of the teams.

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      1. Good point, but let’s not forget, NCAA Men’s Basketball also has the NIT, CBA and CBI post-season tournaments, allowing yet another 80 teams some form of post-season play beyond Conference tournaments. Granted, NCAA gymnastics can’t compete with NCAA Men’s Basketball, but there’s no reason not to use some of their overall attention-getting ideas.

        In addition, if you create more access to NCAA Women’s gymnastics, make it understandable, it’s possible more schools would offer women’s gymnastics. An Athletic Director, new to women’s gymnastics probably looks at the overall situation and will look towards other sports rather than get involved with what could appear to a “high-end, country-club, clique” of schools.

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      2. One other point. Yes, we’re inviting a higher percentage of teams – and why not? Right now NCAA Regional bids come down to fractions of a point. If we’re honest, the same girl doing the same routine in an Auburn or LSU leo will score .3 higher than the same girl, with the same routine in a Penn or Towson leo. (Yes, the top-20 teams are deeper in talent, I’m not questioning that).There’s too much subjectiveness into the scoring. Allowing more teams helps neuter the Conference “home cooking” that goes on during the season. Gymnastics is the only sport where a “good loss” or a “bad win” makes a difference. This helps level the playing field to some degree.

        More teams eligible, more interest, possibly grow the sport and more overall revenue for the schools/teams due to more interest.

        I’ve given the elite schools a reason for intensity during the regular season as the top-12 in the Regional and top-6 in the Super-Regional get to host the “playoff(s)”.

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      3. Yes, but even with those other tournaments, we have 80+65=145 teams making the post season which is still significantly under half and a very significantly lower percentage of teams in the post season than gymnastics has even with the current system. I wouldn’t really have a problem if they developed a different post season opportunity in gymnastics that wasn’t competing for bids to nationals (just as teams in the NIT cannot get to the national championship game, no matter how well they do), but having over 75% of teams competing in the post season for a bid to nationals is excessive.

        For your point about teams missing regionals by small fractions of a point, well yes, but that happens with any cut-off. There will always be somebody who barely missed it. The only solution to avoid that would be to put literally everybody into regionals. The important thing is that people who would’ve had a reasonable shot at making nationals weren’t excluded, and year after year we see that this isn’t the case. This year, for example, the closest any team that ranked 31-36 came to making nationals was being a full point away. 2 of these 6 teams were over 2 full points away from qualifying. Clearly none of the teams that were the last few in were anywhere close to qualifying to nationals.

        As far as your “more teams, more interest” point, I think that’s extremely optimistic. They can’t even get ESPN to broadcast all of their post season meets when there are only 9 of them. If you increase that number to 21, good luck getting even a third of those broadcast on TV.

        In regards to your comment about name-recognition scoring, you have really exaggerated how bad it is. You said 0.3. You really think the athletes from Oklahoma, LSU, Florida, UCLA, Utah, etc. who are scoring 9.85-9.9 on a regular basis would be scoring 9.55-9.6 if they went to, say, Sacramento State? No way. The only way a routine that starts out of 10.0 scores in that range is if there are large errors. Some athletes from big name schools may be getting an extra 0.05 on a regular basis, but it’s nowhere remotely close to 0.3.

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      4. I agree, Mary. Making post-season should be an accomplishment not a “Congrats, you managed not to majorly screw up the year!” award. Gymnastics is different from other sports because of how few teams there actually are competing at the top level. Heck, the Big 12 only has four teams and that’s only because Denver joined for gymnastics. I’m okay with the current number of teams, but I also wouldn’t mind reducing the teams making regionals.

        Use Stanford this year as an example — should there season with multiple low scores have been rewarded? I don’t think they deserved a post-season berth, but they still qualified.

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