The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

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

1)

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.

2)

Right. “Injured.” Sure.

3)

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.

4)

5)

UGHUGHUGHUGHUGHUGHUGHUGHUGH.

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?

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