What Even Is This Season?

The 2021 college gymnastics season begins in just four days. And as with all great ideas, the question on everyone’s mind is, “so…are we really doing this?”

We are. But it’s going to be a little (emphasis on little) different. Here’s a rundown of how it’s supposed to go, and what parts are going to be the weirdest this year.

Schedules

The SEC teams will open action on Friday with a four-meet slate, all against each other. The SEC is basically attempting to conduct 3/4 of a normal season, with 8 regular season meets against the other SEC teams leading up to the SEC Championship. Typically, these teams would have more like 11 meets before the conference championship, but this year they’ve scheduled a couple built-in weeks off—I guess in case too many team members are in the hospital and meets have to be rescheduled?

But, we’re seeing conferences/teams adopt very different approaches to COVID in their scheduling for this bonkers season because there’s no national guidance whatsoever.

Some, like Oklahoma, have gone full steam ahead and scheduled what looks exactly like a normal season with competitions scheduled every weekend featuring a number of in-conference and out-of-conference opponents. Oklahoma is also among the teams that has continued selling tickets to its meets, though most schools will be operating without allowing the chin-mask rabble into arenas this year.

Today, the Big Ten announced its own conference-only schedule beginning next weekend and featuring 9 meets for each team leading up to the conference championship. So that’s more or less a normal season as well except without competition in the first weekend, much like what the EAGL is planning.

Basically, some days this season are going to look exactly like a normal year (Friday, January 22 is already shaping up to require too many screens) while other days will be total ghost towns since so many of the non-money athletic programs have packed it in this winter and most schools are limiting in some way (there will be barely any meets at all on Friday, February 5).

Speaking of limiting, the Pac-12 has yet to make any kind of actual schedule announcement but has thrown out bits and pieces of what looks like it will be a more abbreviated plan than the other major conferences, beginning in later January (although Utah does have meets scheduled for the first two weekends). The California requirement to isolate within your immediate household for 14 days after any out-of-state travel will make the concept of having road meets particularly interesting.

In the “not having a season” department, we have the Ivy League teams, as well as West Chester, Alaska, Southern Connecticut, Brockport, Cortland, Ithaca, Ursinus, and we think probably Bridgeport because is that even a university anymore (?). Meanwhile the DIII teams in Wisconsin/Minnesota have been shut down until at least February 1, so we’re still waiting to see what happens there.

Most teams are scheduling only within conference or within general geographical region, which will lead to some necessary repetitiveness of opponents. For instance, West Virginia and Pittsburgh will go through a stretch of three consecutive dual meets against each other. In West Virginia’s 10-meet schedule, there are just four different opponents—Oklahoma, Denver, Iowa State, and Pitt.

Times of competitions will also be a little different this year, though not as different as I would like because lots of teams are still bunching on Friday nights, unhelpfully—this was your one chance to be better! But, both Iowa State and Minnesota are scheduled to host some Friday mid-afternoon meets that we wouldn’t usually have because that’s the middle of a work day.

Rankings

Rankings will change for this season only. Typically, a team’s best six scores are used for its NQS ranking, at least three of which must be away. The highest score is dropped, and the remaining five are averaged.

Not for 2021. This year, only the best four scores will be used, at least two of which must be away, and no scores will be dropped.

That means only four meets this season will end up counting—pretty interesting for a team like Oklahoma that’s still planning to have twelve. Sooners, you can really just chill through most of them. The idea here is to allow an opportunity for those schools that end up having a paltry schedule because of state rules or “oops, we all got COVID” to still qualify to any alleged postseason competitions.

The are any number of problems regarding competitive equity with this modified NQS, but that’s just sort of the deal with this messed-up season in every way. With the gamut running from “EVERYTHING IS FINE” to “you aren’t legally allowed to train as a team indoors and your meet is tomorrow good luck,” there’s fundamentally no chance for competitive equity anyway.

Postseason

It seems like it’s going ahead QUESTION MARK. Conferences are confirming their schedules through their conference championships in late March.

The general concept is that there will still be a postseason. One would think there would need to be some major planning adjustments and arrangements for that many athletes from different teams to be in these four regional locations. But you know. Nationals remain scheduled for Fort Worth on April 16th and 17th, and Utah, Missouri, and West Virginia are still slated to host regionals, though the fourth intended regional host New Hampshire has withdrawn from hosting, which means a new host will need to be found. You know, at some point.

Rules Adjustments

The NCAA instituted exactly one rules adjustment for COVID in women’s gymnastics, changing open stretch from 30 minutes to 20 minutes. SO THAT FIXED IT.

29 thoughts on “What Even Is This Season?”

  1. Even within California, there are quarantine requirements – anyone coming to or leaving the Bay Area needs to quarantine for 14 days, so even trying to have a meet between UCLA and Cal (for example) presents difficulties.

    Never mind that Southern California has been at 0% ICU Capacity since before Christmas and the Bay Area has been below 10% for days (weeks?) as well.

    I would love to see gymnastics, but yeah.

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    1. I wonder what the ICU capacity is at in other NCAA gym areas.California is already has to have a plan to limit care

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  2. What about UCLA’s hip-hop class / kumbaya sessions where they sit in a circle and talk about their feelings? And then do yoga on their vision boards. Can they still do all that?

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    1. It’s less of a contagion risk than the ubiquitous SEC prayer circles or team meetings called to bully the black gymnasts, so probably.

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      1. LSU?? LMAO don’t be silly. Didn’t you see Gymnastics 101? They don’t wear masks. They know their faith in Jesus Lord Savior will protect them. FAITH OVER FEAR!!!

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      2. LSU is not invincible…. hopefully no other team will get COVID from LSU! That would certainly hurt post-season AGAIN…as we certainly had enough of “season cut short” in 2020. Be safe all, be healthy all, let’s all pray this season goes to completion!!

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  3. It is possible that some qualified teams will just say “No thanks” to participating in any postseason.

    That happened recently in NCAA football where many teams said skipping the post-season “was in the best interest of our program and of the well-being of our student-athletes, both physically and mentally”.

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  4. I think gymnastics will be different than football – or at least you won’t see any teams who even have a shot at making top 8 skipping anything (top 25-ish, recognizing the drop offs and tiers) Football is a little different because there are essentially 4 spots in the top tier and the rest of the bowls have been declining in importance since the introduction of the playoff system. My point being is that you may see opt outs for gymnastics but I would expect less. And while gymnastics is certainly not a moneymaking sport for most (or any ) schools, the teams are smaller and the logistics required to transport for post season are much less than for an entire football team.

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    1. And those football teams ALWAYS get the best recruits…it’s historical and traditional. But it is also a wider spread of teams.

      Gymnastics needs to be at NCAA championships because they will want to keep securing the best recruits. So a chance to win a team title or event title is a talking point for them. Look at the shift we saw in the last decade. Georgia used to get all the best recruits until they stopped winning. Oklahoma/Florida started winning and they began landing the best recruits.

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      1. UGA didn’t get the BEST recruits last 10yrs. Shouldn’t really matter if a team is winning/losing… should depend solely on gymnast choice. UGA does needsbetter recruiters …it all changed after Jay left!

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      2. You misread the OP comment.
        He/she stated that Georgia stopped winning and thus lost out on the big recruits. They missed nationals in 2010 right after winning their last national title. 2010 was just over a decade ago. Then they were 10th, 11th the next Nationals. That is when they stopped getting the big recruits to sign NLI who opted for programs that started winning. The top recruits then shifted toward Oklahoma, Florida, and UCLA continued to get them. These are the only 3 teams to win the last 8 years.

        The top recruits have a choice of literally ANY college in the country, of course they will choose a winning one. It’s not rocket science.

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    2. I forgot to put in my post that I agree about post season for the top tier teams. SEC will all compete for Nationals.
      Maybe some lesser qualified teams will pass on it. For example, Maryland was 28th last year and West Virginia was 31st last year. These teams just barely qualified for regionals and never had a chance to make it into the final at regionals for a spot at Nationals. So why risk sending a full team to finish last or to be eliminated in the play in meet.
      Who knows, they might even amend regional meets to smaller numbers.

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      1. No one gives a crap about him.

        He is lucky that the culture in the 80s was different than today.
        There is no way he would have gotten away with dating/sexual relationship with a student-athlete in present times.
        Was and has always been a creeper.

        That said I do agree with him and at least he is not a Trump cult member.

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  5. With a vaccine on the near horizon wonder why NCAA did not have the season start later so they can have athletes get vaccinated

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    1. Healthy 18-22 year olds are pretty damn close to the back of the line in many states. The delay would likely extend into the summer.

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