Bye Bye Byes

We officially have the report from this month’s NCAA committee meeting. First of all, I have to give them credit for providing the report to us during the same month as the meeting itself. Usually it trickles out to us peasants around Novembruary threeteenth. Progress!

The most important order of business is confirmation of the change in postseason format, which we’ve kinda-sorta-basically known about for several months, though this ultimate proposal has a minor tweak or two from what we heard about before.

Still, the headline remains the same. The new format adds an extra super-regional round to the postseason and eliminates all six-team meets and byes.

Why is this important? It’s a million times better for TV and the fan experience. It adds an additional round of exciting elimination meets and creates faster, clearer, and more interesting competitions with less downtime and fewer teams hanging around that aren’t ultimately going to be relevant to the final result.

Or, you know, because it

Do note that the proposal now goes to the Division I Competition Oversight Committee and will not go into effect until the 2019 season.

This delay was inevitable because it still has to be approved by the NCAA (those beacons and speed and reasonableness) and because of “Ugh, everything is slow and the worst.” But also BOO I want it now.

How the postseason works

It’s easiest just to look at it in visual format.

But, four teams in a regional. The top two advance to the super regional. There, the top two advance to the semifinals. There, the top two advance to a four-team final. The winner is the winner.

In the new format, each regional site will contest three meets instead of one: an afternoon regional, an evening regional, and a super regional the next day. Two teams ultimately advance to nationals from each of the four regional sites.

One of the changes from the most recent proposal is an alternation in how to manage the lowest-ranked qualifiers in a regional system that only provides space for 32 teams instead of 36 (8 regional meets x 4 teams = 32 teams). Previously, the 32-36 teams were going to participate in a five-team play-in meet at one of the regional sites, with the winner making it into the top 32.

Now, the 29-36 ranked teams will be split up (2 to each site) to compete in four separate play-in dual meets on the Friday before regionals, with a spot at regionals on the line at each one. LOVE this. LOVE LOVE LOVE this. It creates a brand-new exciting and competitive day of meets for us that we haven’t had before, also providing an actual showcase to those lower-ranked teams where they have something real riding on the result.

For reference, last season that would have given us play-in meets of Iowa State v. Minnesota; New Hampshire v. North Carolina; Kent State v. BYU; Stanford v. Penn State. (That’s going by ranking, though they’ll probably be placed geographically instead.) I’m all for that.

The other reveal is the individual qualification format, in which the AA leader (not on a qualifying team) in each meet of each round advances to the next round as an individual, along with the top-finishing gymnast on each event not on a qualifying team). This is far superior to the previous system requiring event qualifiers to win the event, which was too dependent on the quality of the other teams in the regional rather than the quality of the gymnast herself.

Ultimately, that will give us 8 AAers making super regionals and just 4 AAers making nationals instead of 12, but I’m OK with that, especially because the number of individual event competitors making nationals should increase.

Other developments


PHEW. Good thing they settled flower-gate. We were all really worried about that. URGENT BUSINESS.

But remember: A flower. Not a bouquet. We’re not made of florists.


Right. “Injured.” Sure.


That sounds awfully noncommittal and nonbinding. “Work with the host to determine ways.” Yeah. OK. It’s something that needs to be changed. The award ceremony after semifinals this year was appallingly long and terrible.




No. Coaches don’t get to have a say about judging. At all. Ever. Judges and coaches have competing interests (judges: accuracy, coaches: not accuracy). You don’t let the mouse write an evaluation of the cat. All evaluation of judges must come from a disinterested third party. Otherwise, what are we even doing?

37 thoughts on “Bye Bye Byes”

  1. This title and photo give my inner 90s child great joy. You deserve a prize. obviously.

  2. “4. _Misconduct_. The commitee reviewed championship misconduct issues and decided appropriate action.”

    What misconduct?

  3. The only thing I really don’t like is the fact that the 29-36 teams (or individuals from those teams) could potentially have to compete three days in a row (play in, regionals, and super regionals) if they make it that far. That can’t be good for the athletes’ health.

    1. No practice day for the regional weekend with the new format, so basically it is the same as practice and two days of competition as was done at nationals with event finals.

  4. This is a seriously, hideous bad idea on almost every level, and the idea that they would use “athlete health” as their red herring is INSULTING. You actually think it’s in the best interest of an athlete’s “health”, to have to compete 3 days, back to back, peaking each time, 2 weeks after your conference championships, just to qualify to Nats, which will also be a scant 2 weeks later? That’s what your lower ranked teams will have to do to even have a chance of qualifying for Nationals, which of course they won’t, as one of the main goals of this abomination is to cement the power of the top 6 teams. PLUS leading to less gymnastics at Nats, and even less reason to actually travel to the meet in nowheresville Texas, year after year, to see 4 teams give exhibition style, one at a time, mind numbingly slow meet performances.

    For the top 5-6 teams that will inevitably be at Nationals year in year out now, you will now find injury rates postseason increase, unless of course, difficulty decreases even further, as pressure meet load increases. And in what other sport in the canon are they trying to make “hey look, we made REGIONALS” an actual thing? Stop trying to make regionals happen. No one in their right mind cares about making regionals, it’s about making Nationals that excites gymnasts and fans.

    And what happens to recruiting? Do you honestly think a program like Cal, or Denver, or Illinois, or UW, or so many others, are going to be able to recruit high level 10s and elites with the promise of making REGIONALS? Because this system is the death knell for any other those teams or teams like them ever making Nationals. the relative parity that so many people champion now will be extinct in about 3 recruiting cycles.

    But please, by all means, cream yourself over the concept of NCAA Championships being on CBS for an hour and a half at 9pm on a Saturday night. subtract the commercial time and the inevitable “human interest stories”, that will come out to, oh 58 minutes of actual gymnastics “on network tv”, which by the way is a dying medium. Please enjoy your floor exes without the first pass, and cutting into a beam set halfway – how exciting!

    oh, and btw, to Greg Marsden, the years long architect of this killer of the only good gymnastics we have left, I wish a hearty fuck you.

    1. Not really gonna touch most of your points here, but have you seen ESPN’s coverage of NCAAGym? It’s fantastic – dozens of meets are broadcast on live TV every season, with much, MUCH more available to stream online. The CBS coverage you’re talking about hasn’t been a thing for so long. Did you just time travel from the year 2005??? It’s not about securing live TV anymore; it’s just about streamlining the meets and making them less wonky for fans, both in the arena and watching at home.

    2. i will just address one thing that isn’t immediately obvious as barely logical drama: this new format actually has more room for upsets. a top seeded team now only needs to beat a second seed and 4 other weaker teams for nationals. with this, and assuming regionals have no upsets themselves, they will need to beat another first seed and two second seeds for nationals. for weaker teams, they still need to defeat at least two stronger teams as they need right now, but those stronger teams also need to hit two meets opposed to only one. this format should see more underdogs making nationals, not less.

    3. “Please enjoy your floor exes without the first pass, and cutting into a beam set halfway – how exciting!” You’re literally describing regionals coverage this past year. Also, why can’t regionals be a thing? In most sports every level of post-season competition brings excitement, and the different cable networks will have way more interest in broadcasting once it’s in a bye-less, more streamlined format

    4. FINALLY someone manages to put to words what I don’t like about this! (That and the part where for some reason we’re still doing top scores per session instead of top overall scores.) I don’t consider NCAA “the only good gymnastics we’ve got left” but this idea of cutting four team spots out of Nationals (and the funding, prestige, and recruiting opportunities that go with them) just so poor whiddle LSU or whoever doesn’t have to worry about keeping themselves warm during a 15 minute bye is ridiculous. Give ’em a back gym like they do for elite EFs and get over it. Or have 12 teams at nationals in three semis of four and take the winner of each session plus an at-large score for the final.

      also @ “this gets rid of all six-team meets” I know the SEC and Pac 12 have eight but I’m pretty sure there are some conferences out there that have more awkward numbers that will force them to keep running conference championships with byes of some sort.

  5. If nothing else, I’m enjoying the DEFCON 1 meltdowns some people are having over this.
    And yay, no more byes! Couldn’t stand that they were called byes in the first place and they made watching Nationals an arduous experience.

  6. I guess my biggest gripe is having to field your A team twice or even three times in a weekend multiple times in a season. I’m all for rewarding consistency, but I am not excited about pushing athletes’ bodies any harder tan they’re already pushed.

    That said, as long as they keep 6 up 5 count I won’t be very unhappy. Yay actual team gymnastics!

  7. okay multiple people now have expressed this so i need to comment on it too: three meets in three days (potentially) is not going to kill anyone. i get that gymnastics is very tough on the body but sometimes people lose a bit of perspective. other sports deal with tighter schedules all the time.

    with that said they could just put the play-ins on a thursday instead of a friday just so people will stop panicking i guess.

  8. This is going to be unsourced because I’m lazy, but I listen to a football (‘soccer’) podcast which recently discussed a report into match frequency and it showed that less rest days between games didn’t cause more injuries. More games overall obviously could (if it was a significant increase), but it’s a myth, in football at least, that putting the games closer together causes injury. Gymnastics isn’t football, but I thought it was an interesting and potentially relevant finding.
    I’m pretty neutral on the changes – I don’t find byes THAT annoying, although 4 teams is a more elegant solution I guess.

    1. the main difference between soccer and gymnastics is that if your fatigue is interfering with your focus or power in soccer you generally aren’t gonna get lost in the air and land on your neck

      1. True, but is a gymnast doing 12 routines (competing AA in 3 meets in a weekend) that more likely to be injured than a gymnast competing 8 routines (current Nats — AA in two days)? I think people are going crazy for nothing. Change is good! Gymnastics has needed some updating for quite some time.

  9. Overall I like this:
    – Play-in teams are competing for something real
    – No more than 4 teams in any meet will really keep the intensity and speed up, both in-person and on TV
    – Higher chance of being on TV
    – I LOVE that the highest placing individual advances. Winning was simply too high a bar to meet. This is a fantastic change.
    – Could result in more upsets (you need to beat 2 teams to advance, not 3)

    – Potential to compete three days in a row for some teams.
    – Could result in fewer upsets (only 2 teams can advance, not 3)
    – No individual event finals
    – It will be on TV and we’ll still get 90 seconds of chalk-feet and they’ll still cut away mid-routine for 90% of routines

    Overall I view this as a positive step. I like that the NCAA is willing to change and evolve (hopefully) for the benefit of the sport. I think we can look back in 5-10 years and see how these changes helped or hurt. That’s how progress is made, one routine at a time.

    My question to other posters – what’s the ideal TV format? Sometimes the live feed is a 4-way split screen so you can see everything happening, but it’s all tiny. The other is that you can select your feed and choose the event/team you want. But that only seems to work on a computer. What is the ideal way to broadcast 4 simultaneous teams on one channel on TV? Thoughts?

    1. The PAC 12 has a great format – you see every event It would require some staggering of regionals but it is great watching

      1. I love the PAC 12 format of each gymnast going one at a time. It doesn’t extend the meet too much, because you’re not just watching teams waiting on scores.

    2. speaking as a gym fan who can figure out what’s going on for herself rather than a casual viewer, the ideal tv format is 4 way split screen (or 2/3 way once some events finish) with no extraneous junk taking up additional space around the 4-way like on the SECN-A feed for SECs last year, camera work that keeps the gymnast’s entire body in frame from a judge’s viewpoint the whole time, and either quality commentary that really dives into the technical aspect of what’s going on like you’d see for a mainstream sport or just floor music and ambient audio.

      at the bottom of each split screen there are two bars, one static with the gymnast’s name, her year-to-date average or RQS on the event, and the running team total or average over events competed for the meet, one scrolling with the running team total for the event, the name of each gymnast to compete thus far, and her score. when a new score is added to the scrolling bar, it flashes red and white twice to get the viewer’s attention and then immediately shows the gymnast’s name and score.

      in between routines each screen shows slow-motion replays of the key elements of the previous routine. fluff pieces are limited to rotation breaks. commercials are limited to five minutes out of every thirty by a national law and the entire break must be equal or lower in volume than the immediately preceding sound level in the broadcast. that’s just me though.

      1. Are you arguing that you want the FCC to limit commercials on cable TV to five minutes per 30-min of coverage? It’s a good idea, but won’t happen. A recent study showed some cable networks are nearing 15 minutes per 30 min (it used to be closer to around 8 minutes).

        I think with meets, they should run an extended commercial break between rotations. Show the routines, but at-home TV viewers wouldn’t see warm-ups and we don’t have to listen to the commentators make the same comments year-after-year in between rotations. Viewers would be happy to see all routines, ESPN gets its ad revenue, but the egos of the commentators may be hurt.

  10. That visual of the new regionals format is super confusing–if there are only 2 teams in each session of a regional, and the 1st and 2nd place teams from each session advance to the super-regional, what is the difference? What is the point?

    1. Those two teams are the automatic seeds by RQS rank (ie. #1 has to go up against #16 etc.), and then the remainder are filled with the remaining ranked teams based on what site is closest geographically. similar to how the bottom spots in a regional seed now.

  11. I don’t understand why they chose this format as opposed to Spencer’s original idea. It seems like a mess, to be honest. I mean ultimately getting rid of byes is what matters the most, but we could have done so much better. Having 4 semi-finals with 1 winner from each advancing to nationals would make so much more sense.

  12. Would the ‘no byes’ thing affect big ten championships? Because if you want to keep it to 2 sessions, you have to have byes. You just do. Unless only 8 teams qualify to their champs, which would just be weird.

    1. I’m pretty sure the “no byes” part of this refers to the fact that nationals and regionals have been restructured with the specific intent of eliminating byes from those meets. As far as I know, the NCAA has not done anything to discourage byes from existing in meets that aren’t regionals or nationals. Assuming this is correct, the only way that conference championship meets would be changed is if the powers that be in the individual conference decided to change it.

  13. Recruiting tool for big 10 teams then! “Come to ________, where you can have byes for two meets in the year!”

  14. let’s be honest here if kupetsculan actually gets georgia back in shape and we have an all-SEC nationals in 2019 how many milliseconds do you think it will be before the committee does a complete 180 on this format? over/under, anyone?

    1. I predict major howling before then, but I don’t seem them going back. When someone scores higher in one regional session than one of the top two in the other session and doesn’t make super regionals, there will be major angst – we get that every year at semi-finals, but now those teams get to at least tell their fans “we made nationals and had one of the top six qualifying scores”. Beginning in 2019 – no really good way to spin that in your website write-ups. And, when someone unexpected from the afternoon session of regionals gets trumped in super regionals by someone in the morning session or regionals, we will get the whining that we now get at Nationals – except once again – they now at least made it to finals – where after 2019 they won’t even make semi-finals. And we get to have the same morning/afternoon whining for Nationals anyway. They should have done 3 semi-finals – or 8 regionals and 4 semi finals – yes problems with any of that, too. I think Regionals spread across the country on college campuses helps expands fan base – ratcheting that back to fewer locations shrinks it. IMO

  15. I’m starting to think gymnastics fans will complain about anything. I think it’s refreshing to see people trying to improve the sport. I can’t wait to see it play out in 2019!

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