Things Are Happening – May 9, 2019

A. The loser is everyone

Scott Reid at the OC Register has a bunch more information this week about the wildly typical and predictable barf-trench that was USAG’s attempted hiring of Edward Nyman as its first ever director of sports medicine and science.

The reason for Nyman’s firing—that nonspecific “conflict of interest” that USAG flopped out there—was, according to USAG, that he failed to disclose Safesport-related complaints or allegations of misconduct against New Heights Gymnastics, the gym owned by his wife Amy. The latest update of the article states that Safesport is also reviewing an issue of some description involving Nyman himself.

Um, so, yeah. Not great. I encourage you to read the complete article (and the full statement from Nyman that originally appeared in near-full in the article) because you’ll be left going “Who are these people?!?!” It may be the most #TeamNobody situation we’ve ever had to endure with USAG. And that’s saying quite a bit.

There’s a lot of back-and-forth between the two parties about who actually knew what, and disclosed which, and who lied when, and who is corrupt, and which accusations are true and false. I have no idea, I wasn’t in these meetings, but a few things are clear.

USAG has no excuse for the wild failure that was this attempted hiring. The lack of appropriate vetting and lack of any kind of intra-organizational communication betrays a continued inability to function at a basic minimum level of professionalism. Regardless of what Nyman may or may not have disclosed, USAG needed to be able to find out itself that this was a poor choice, especially because—as we’ve learned from Reid’s piece—USAG’s in-house counsel knew about the safety/training complaints regarding New Heights. USAG can blame Nyman, but that information is on USAG to know before it hired him.

As any competent organization would have. Nyman’s statement is full of personal agenda and should be taken with a bucket of salt—his categorical defense of New Heights against all claims because that would never happen can only provoke the question “how would you even know?”—but the picture he paints of USAG as a corrupt, disorganized, image-obsessed mess is nothing new.

As for Nyman, we don’t know what will come of these Safesport issues, if anything, but even their very existence is disqualifying. You can’t take a position of high-profile leadership at USAG when you are connected in any possible way to unresolved Safesport complaints, regardless of the ultimate findings. I mean, that should be obvious, right? Am I taking crazy pills? While USAG bungled this in every possible way, it did the right thing in terminating Nyman. It would have been far worse if we had learned this information later, after he had been on the job for a while.

Other thoughts:

  • USAG cited his “poor judgment” in its explanation of Nyman’s firing, and viewing the bizarre caps lock decisions in Nyman’s own personal defense, I can’t argue. Fair assessment. Also, you know, the Safesport stuff and taking it upon himself to disclose the Stephanie Peters complaint against a men’s national team member to the press (which is a whole extra bag of huh??? we don’t know anything about yet)—but the caps lock, you guys. Intense Trumpy Lee Tracy vibes.
  • One of the other things I can’t get past in that statement is the conversation between Amy Nyman and Mark Busby—the USAG lawyer—at Congress where he supposedly told her she had nothing to worry about with those complaints. Why on earth is a USAG lawyer making that determination, why is that being communicated in an informal conversation at Congress, and why is that informal conversation viewed as “I guess it’s fine now?” No. None of that. None of that is how it should work. See lack of professionalism above. Have you all learned nothing?
  • Nyman says he was never owner nor co-owner of New Heights. I had said he was co-owner because of the BGSU press release from when he was hired there, which refers to him as a co-owner. So there’s that.
  • A quote from John Manly in the article claims that Nyman was hired to replace That Guy at USAG. That’s not really accurate. The strategy is to try to draw a link between the two and USAG’s trashiness, but Nyman was hired to a non-treatment, administrative role. There’s no need to misrepresent what’s happening. The regular representation is bad enough for USAG.

B. Waller, Waller everywhere

OK fun stuff time now! After much speculation, Chris Waller has been hired to replace Miss Val as head coach at UCLA. It can’t be considered a surprise since he has been next in line for that job for seven hundred years and is supremely qualified for the position. He has put in the time. Still, you can’t help but notice that the hiring is rather un-UCLA in its even, predictable normalness. You half-expected Miss Val to pop out of a cake and be like, “The new coach is me!”

We’ll see how it goes. Despite the fact that Waller has been there for so long, being the face of the program is a very different position from what he has had before. He’s not simply going to be able to say, “let’s keep doing what we’ve been doing” because he’s not Val and can’t try to be. That will be a difficult tightrope because many will be waiting to say, “Ugh, it’s not the same” the second Waller goes out there and isn’t Val, and yet he can’t go out there and be Val because that would just be weird. He’s a different person who will have a different identity as head coach and will coach a team with a different culture. At the same time, I don’t expect there to be much of a leash or much forgiveness time if the team gets all blah (see Clark, Jay). He’s going to need to win and win quickly.

And now with enough of that chatter out of the way, here are some GIFs of Waller from those Reese’s Cups. You know, the important stuff.

The other big coaching news of the week concerns Utah hiring the McCools following their departure from…not getting the Arkansas job. Courtney will still be a volunteer assistant coach because of whatever nonsense that’s about, with Utah’s official coaching staff comprised of Tim Farden, Carly Dockendorf, and Garrett Griffith now. You’ll notice that Robert Ladanyi is nowhere to be found, but no official word yet on where he has ended up. Stay tuned.

Chris Swircek is also stepping back to a volunteer coach position at Stanford.

C. Chinese nationals

Women’s qualification concluded at Chinese Nationals today, with Liu Tingting leading the all-around standings, followed closely by Ou Yushan (junior), and Luo Huan.

Luo had an important day, placing third all-around and among the top-3 EF qualifiers on both bars and beam. I mentioned last week that she needed a result here to avoid looking superfluous. It’s still a tough road for Luo because she doesn’t have the vault and floor scores, but she did her job on her important events to stay in the main mix, especially with Chen Yile and Li Qi absent here.

LTT is in control of China (just…as a country) at this point, even advancing to the floor final in 2nd place with a 13.100. And, yes, the fact that 13.100 and a 4.7 D got into the floor final in 2nd place is still very much a cause for concern. Zhang Jin leads that event by a ton with 13.850, but no one else really got a score. Unfortunately, our great floor hope Qi Qi fell on an attempted double double tuck (that also didn’t look close in PT). She’s still going to be essential for floor, but that result was a bit disappointing. Qi Qi did, however, hit a very proficient DTY on vault, something the team needs.

Meanwhile, the project to turn world tumbling champion Jia Fangfang into a floor option continues as she did advance to the floor final with a Tingting-matching 13.100—and did it with less-than-ideal landings on a couple of those passes (but a definitely ideal landing on the FTDLO). The dance elements aren’t there and are probably never going to be there, but if she can fill in with enough tumbling difficulty, she can be a real option.

Liu Jinru did hit her DTT for a solidly high vault score, but with the presence of Qi Qi, you wonder if that alone is going to be enough for her to continue challenging for teams because the floor score was only in the 12s, despite advancing to the final.

Fan Yilin qualified in first place on bars of course, and Luo Youjuan made the beam final, so we’re going to be OK. This competition also brought Shang Chunsong back to us, and she advanced to the floor final with this routine.

In the junior department, Ou Yushan’s beam is life-changing, so if you’re looking to be totally over all the seniors and getting obsessed with a junior, here.

Just cursorily based on today, I’d probably want Liu Tingting, Zhang Jin, Fan Yilin, Qi Qi, and Luo Huan as a first-choice team of five—using a Yfull on vault rather than compromising elsewhere—but there’s still plenty of time to change that. I was hoping for a little more from Tang Xijing here. She did place 6th AA and did advance to the beam final, but not a totally convincing performance that I would put into a team of five right now.

D. GymCastic

Yep, it’s the Morgan Hurd/Heath Thorpe episode! You can listen here.

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38 thoughts on “Things Are Happening – May 9, 2019”

  1. Everyone is a disaster with USAG and that’s USAG adjacent, including Manly who is sometimes inaccurate and often seems more focused on his own publicity, at least in public statements. I don’t even know what the solution is anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. USAG cited his “poor judgment” in its explanation of Nyman’s firing, and viewing the bizarre caps lock decisions in Nyman’s own personal defense, I can’t argue. Fair assessment.

    HARD SAME. VERY HARD SAME.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If I were to select teams, I would not like to make this compromise even on VT, but……….. China literally doesn’t have the options. Their vaulters who aren’t one-eventers are Zhang Jin and Qi Qi. The end. And they already have a one-eventer that they need to take.

    I can’t believe China has put themselves in a “we must count a FTY in TF to keep the other events alive” corner. And bars and floor aren’t even properly alive (bars is fine but it’s supposed to be the best in the world). China is not showing big 3 gymnastics this quad and it’s worrying. 😦

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    1. I think they will be the most vulnerable at Tokyo 2020. This pains me because I really love the Chinese team, and of course they will vie for individual medals, but if Japan/Brazil/Canada is going to knock anyone off the podium next year, it will be China.

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  4. >He’s (Waller’s) going to need to win and win quickly.

    Yes, and is there a better NCAA Senior class next season than UCLA’s including Kyla Ross, Madison Kocian, Grace Glenn, Anna Glenn, Felicia Hano, Gracie Kramer, Mercedez Sanchez, Macy Toronjo (5th yr) and Stella Savvidou (5th yr) ? And that’s just the Seniors! If they are healthy…look out!

    A near-term test for Head Coach Waller will be his selection of Assistant Coaches. Will Associate Head Coach Randy Lane stay? Who will be their newest Assistant Coach…perhaps UCLA alum Kristina Comforte?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the new UCLA assistant really needs to be a beam specialist type of coach. With Waller and Lane, you are good on VT and UB and pretty covered on floor.

      A Casey Jo Magee-type would be great. Maybe even Geralyn Stack-Eaton. Both have been successful at Missouri and Minnesota, respectively. I was actually surprised Magee wasn’t looked at for the Arkansas position.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I read Jay Clark was the first choice at Arkansas but declined. I assume they wanted a bigger name but passing over an alum and the McCool Griffiths who were already on staff was a bit striking.

        Did CJM apply? I assume d they simply reached out to people of interest.

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      2. Stack-Eaton is an interesting suggestion. She is in a similar position to Courtney McCool where she would bring her husband with her, so one of them would have to be the volunteer coach. But given how low the pay is at Minnesota, I wouldn’t be surprised if they could get paid more with one of them working at UCLA compared to two at Minnesota. Stack-Eaton also does all the choreography at Minnesota, so that’s something else she would bring with her.

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    2. Could just be rumors, but several netters are stating that UCLA assistant coach Randy Lane is not coming back to UCLA for 2019-2020. Wow. If so, best wishes to Randy wherever he decides to go!

      Waller would be the only one of UCLA’s four 2018-2019 coaches returning for 2019-2010.

      Since Lane concentrated on coaching Vault (which has been UCLA’s weakest event the past several years), it will be interesting to see how UCLA’s vault squad does next season under a new coach.

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  5. Does Waller have to give up his role in the club gym? It would appear that it would violate some kind of NCAA regulation. I mean coaches are restricted in recruiting and communications, so how could he operate a club gym while being a head coach? I know NCAA football coaches have been in trouble for appearing at summer camps that didn’t meet specific criteria.

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    1. I was wondering the same thing, but perhaps now he just puts the Wallers’ GymJam Academy club all under his co-founder wife’s name and/or his eldest daughter’s name.

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    2. Doesn’t the George Washington coach own a gym, and the team actually trains there? If that’s OK, I’d have to think Waller’s fine.

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  6. I read Jay Clark was the first choice at Arkansas but declined. I assume they wanted a bigger name but passing over an alum and the McCool Griffiths who were already on staff was a bit striking.

    Did CJM apply? I assume d they simply reached out to people of interest.

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  7. Can someone assess how much Chinese gymnastics changed under Chow? I’ve read they are going to focus more on conditioning and leg strenght but it doesnt seem that it changed something already… I know that he’s there just for a while and the results cannot be immediate. But still if someone has some information, share it please.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. While Waller shouldn’t try to be Val, I think that the GIFs above show that Chris is equally capable of the showmanship we expect of UCLA, should he choose to display it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What’s up with Yile? I figured she’d be their all-around leader, but we haven’t seen anything since worlds. Li Qi I’m not worried about because she’ll probably try to go the individual route for the olympics and with beam being pretty much her only event right now she won’t be on the worlds team.

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  10. Is there a reason Courtney McCool can’t get a paying position?! She had to have the gymnastic creds over her husband? To go to a third school and still be “volunteering “ seems like a huge slap in the face to her . I get that they’re paying her husband but seriously….

    Makes me glad that Jordyn got her first HC job before marriage so she wouldn’t be doomed to volunteer purgatory for her professional life.

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    1. I haven’t seen anything from her on it, but it’s totally possible that she would rather have the volunteer position and her husband the HC position than the other way around. She might not love the politics or travel or other components of the HC job, or she might prefer the way a volunteer position fits in with being a mom. People have different priorities.

      I agree, she shouldn’t be “doomed” to volunteer positions if that’s not what she wants. But do we know that it isn’t?

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  11. It sounded like the Griffeths thought they were poised to take over at Arkansas, where they both would have be paid , so I’m guessing she’d like to be paid …

    Granted I hear the scuttlebutt on various sites and from different people so who knows but I just think she’s paid her dues so to speak and had earned the paying position.

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    1. But finding TWO paid positions at the same D1 school is obviously an issue. Assuming they want to be at the same school and at a major program, that option may not have been on the table. If one of them is going to need to take a volunteer position, she (or they as a family) might prefer it to be her, even if she does have “have the gymnastic creds over her husband.”

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    2. Honestly the whole notion of volunteer assistants has always struck me as weird. Is this common in other NCAA sports? Because that person is essentially an employee without being an employee which seems like it could cause a lot of problems for the university and the volunteer in question if the arrangement goes sideways.

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      1. Not sure about the NCAA as far as other sports go, but in Canadian university the “volunteer coach” is usually a grad student working on a Masters degree and doing a practicum – sometimes it’s one year and can last three or four years. I’m not sure it’s actually a true volunteer position though as I do think there’s a small amount of money involved in addition to the academic credit/ability to post the job on a resume.

        I would bet some NCAA schools find ways to pay the volunteer coach under the table – isn’t this what forced the Nebraska head coach to retire before the 2019 season? Doubt Nebraska is the only D1 school doing it.

        McCool’s pay is probably worked into her husband’s cheque – he receives more money than most assistant D1 gymnastics coaches and she agrees to “volunteer”. No intel, just a guess.

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      2. Oh yeah, when the volunteer is a student or otherwise formally affiliated with the university, it makes sense — like a former team member who has finished their competitive eligibility but is still finishing up school and wants to help out. But to have someone who lacks a formal employment relationship or any relationship with the university beyond providing basically full-time unpaid labor to the gymnastics team still strikes me as weird.

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      3. I know nothing about American football, but I think there were volunteer coaches shown in the second season of Last Chance U.

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