The Balance Beam Situation

Because gymnastics is a comedy, not a drama

RQS/NQS Explained

If we’ve reached a certain point in the NCAA season, you might have started to wonder what the mother of crap RQS or NQS is, so here we go.

RQS stands for Regional Qualifying Score. This score determines which 36 teams advance to the regional championships and which teams are out.

In 2019, college gymnastics tried to get us to change to call it NQS—National Qualifying Score—instead of RQS, and in true NCAA gym fashion, that just created more confusion because NQS makes less sense (and was its own separate thing before this, used to determine a team’s final season ranking) and everyone is used to calling it RQS anyway…so now it’s just kind of both. Another bang-up job.

Whatever you want to call it, the qualifying score is calculated by taking a team’s top six scores from the season, of which at least three must have been scored on the road, removing the high score, and averaging the remaining five. So yes, of all the 10-13 meets from the regular season, only five actually end up counting while the rest are rendered entirely pointless. Now you know why we need psychiatrists.

For the first 7 weeks of the season, teams are ranked by their season average, but in the 8th week, the qualifying score takes over.

Here’s an example of calculating the qualifying score using Oklahoma’s 2018 season. (No, I haven’t updated this in two years and don’t intend to start now.)

OKLAHOMA 2018 Home/Away Score
Meet 1  A 197.550
Meet 2  H 197.525
Meet 3  A 198.125
Meet 4  A 198.050
Meet 5  H 198.150
Meet 6  A 196.425
Meet 7  H 198.025
Meet 8  H 198.375
Meet 9  H 198.100
Meet 10  A 197.925
Meet 11 A 198.175
Meet 12  A 197.775

In bold are the six highest scores achieved by Oklahoma during the season. Three of them were scored on the road, so that requirement is fulfilled. (When it’s not, a lower road score must be used in place of one of the higher home scores).

So now, all we have to do is drop the highest score—the 198.375 from meet 8—and average the remaining five bold scores. That leaves Oklahoma with a season RQS of 198.120, an all-time record. This same process is done for each team, they are ranked, and the top 36 continue their seasons at one of the 4 regional championships locations.

The ultimate function of a qualifying score is to maintain the status quo. It allows teams that started the season poorly (or had a weird horrendous meet) to drop all their bad scores and maintain a ranking more befitting their quality at the best of times, rewarding peak ability and by effect punishing those teams that were more consistent but had lower ceilings. It also prevents teams with one random giant score—or extremely fictional home scoring—from using those scores to pad their rankings too much.

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