CGA Rule Proposals
One of the main initiatives of the CGA is to help protect the remaining 15 programs while also working to enhance our product so that we can reverse the trend and bring more programs back into the NCAA.
During our annual CGA meeting in May, we focused our rule change proposals on answering the following questions:
How do we make our competitions fit into a 2 hour time slot for in-house competitions and television?
How do we make our scoring more understandable?
How do we make our competitions easier to follow?
How can we make our product more attractive for television?
How do we increase parity and competitiveness within our competitions?
The proposals were discussed among the college coaches in a sounding board scenario during a full-day meeting on May 4th . Approximately 40 CGA members were in attendance at the meeting at JO Nationals in Reno. This meeting is used as a platform to share, discuss, develop and vote on ideas that will be presented to the NCAA Committee for consideration in our Rules Modifications document. 4 of the 6 members the NCAA Committee are also members of the CGA.
There are several layers involved in the process to change rules at the NCAA level. Our coach representatives will be bringing the proposals and subsequent straw votes of the coaching community to the committee meeting in June where rules will be discussed and voted on. From there, they will go to the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel where they will provide their input as to the best approach to move these rules along through the system. We wanted to share our thoughts with the entire gymnastics community, and the following rule change proposals were the headliners discussed at our CGA annual meeting in Reno. By no means do we believe that any one change is going to bring tens of thousands of viewers instantly, but making smart, strategic changes, focused on the challenges in our sport will help get it moving in the right direction.
10.0 Conversion System
Proposal: Use a 10.0 conversion system in conjunction with the open ended scoring system
Straw Vote: 21 in favor; 4 against; 11 abstentions The College Gymnastics Association recently discussed proposals that would make NCAA Men’s gymnastics better for the athletes, fans, television and athletics departments. Some may find it surprising to discover that the one common denominator to all of those discussions was the use of a 10.00 scoring system. In fact, in a straw vote, the CGA voted overwhelmingly to implement a new hybrid F.I.G./10.00 system. Here are the reasons why:
Ask a non-gymnastics person how good a score of 15.00 is in the sport and they have absolutely no idea. But, if you ask them how good a 10.00 is they will tell you that it is perfection. They get it. The open-ended scoring system has made gymnastics scores less relevant to the general public including men’s gymnastics alumni. Men’s gymnastics has had little problem in retaining its die-hard fans over the years. The problem is that no new fans are being brought into the fold. It is foolish to think that the fan base will grow when the score is something that no one in the general public understands. Going to a new 10.00 system will bridge the gap to new fans who otherwise would remain forever unengaged.
In today’s market of increasingly expanding media, television and streaming packages, one thing remains a constant -- the fierce competition for viewership. It is unlikely that the attention of viewers will be captured by an event if they don’t have some rudimentary understanding of the basics of the contest. Television producers have long lamented the change from the 10.00 to the open-ended scoring system because of its complexity. As a result, those same producers have been less likely to put out a neatly-packaged gymnastics broadcast because it is not relevant or understandable. In short, a men’s gymnastics meet has become an increasingly difficult story to tell. When producers are asked what can be done to improve our chances of growing and improving the coverage we receive, their immediate response is to go to a 10.00 scoring system. In fact, nothing gets a gymnastics crowd, and the media that covers it, more excited than a gymnast scoring a perfect 10.00.
Earlier attempts to use a 10.00 system in the wake of the F.I.G. open-ended system created a divide between athletes who were on the cutting edge of international competition and those simply competing on an NCAA team. The 10.00 system at that time simply didn’t measure up. It handicapped those who were capable of more. As a result, some prospects opted out of the NCAA. Under the recently proposed 10.00/F.I.G. hybrid system, a graduating senior prospect can compete for his college team and still pursue the highest levels of international competition without compromising his efforts at both.
So just how does this new 10.00/F.I.G. hybid system work? How can you create a system that makes sure that 10.00’s are possible, but rare, and still have scores on the lower-end of the spectrum that are not too low in relation to the rest of the field? Through the use of a simple conversion chart. After reviewing the NCAA Championships and regular season results, it became clear that a final F.I.G. score of 15.00 was very rare yet achievable. One gymnast at the 2019 NCAA Championships achieved this level. Additionally, many scores at the championships, as well as throughout the regular season, hovered around the 13.50 level. Finally, there were some cases of missed routines that earned an 11.00 or slightly lower. What would the conversion look like in each of these cases? Here are the results with a 15.00 being the starting point for the scale:
It is also interesting to note that this scale aligns very closely with the performances of our very best athletes overall, including those outside of the collegiate system. At the 2019 Winter Cup Finals there were only four scores of 15.00 or higher (Sam Mikulak FX & HB, Stephen Nedoroscik PH, and Colin Van Wicklen V). This means that the overwhelming majority of the field at the Winter Cup Finals, those vying for National Team berths and international medal opportunities, achieved scores at a level that was consistent with what was evident at the 2019 NCAA Championships. In other words, a senior prospect in men’s gymnastics can be assured that if he chooses to attend a university, his opportunity to achieve a National, World, or Olympic Team berth will not be compromised. Under the conversion system, collegiate athletes will still be able to push to the highest start values and execution scores even though, when they compete in college, their score will equate to a 10.00 system. Nothing changes in the preparation process for athletes, coaches, or judges. In fact, the only change in the entire process will be one quick, additional calculation by the judges. A judge of a collegiate meet judges exactly as he would for an F.I.G. event except that at the end, once he has arrived at the final F.I.G. score, he looks to the conversion chart to make the adjustment to the 10.00 system. In addition, we will be working with our scoring programmers to include the conversion so that the judges final F.I.G. score is automatically converted to the 10.00 system by the computer scoring program which will ensure that no time is lost. There will be no confusion about what the final score means. It is also interesting to note that the margin of victory (with respect to collegiate team scores) decreases, which further enhances the fan experience. In short, using this 10.00 Conversion System creates instant relevance and relatability for the fan base. It opens the door for increased visibility via television and other media forms as well as enhanced marketing opportunities. Finally, it is simple enough for even the most novice gymnastics enthusiast to understand while providing a challenging and uncompromising opportunity for all men’s collegiate gymnasts. In essence, any way you look at it, the Men’s Collegiate Conversion system is a perfect 10.00.
4 up, 4 count Competition Format
Proposal: Adjust the number of counting scores from 5 to 4.
Straw vote: 30 in favor; 5 opposed; 2 abstentions
This topic had a great amount of support at the annual CGA meeting in Reno. As with most of the discussions at the meeting, we used an overarching philosophy to guide our decisions: how can we create a better product that shows a willingness to evolve as a sport and provide a better product for TV that will eventually create more demand?
As the landscape of college athletics changes with the exponential increase in televised and streaming sporting events and the impending litigation against the NCAA, there are several logical reasons to move to fewer scores counting:
Regular season and championship meets would take less time.
Shorter meets are easier to follow and better for TV production (fit within their allotted time frames)
Fewer routines to compete will accommodate schools with mandated small roster sizes
Team travel budgets could be decreased with fewer student-athletes traveling to away meets
Could create more parity among all remaining NCAA Men’s Gymnastics programs
Decreasing roster size and team travel budgets due to fewer routines makes Men’s Gymnastics less of a cost center within an Athletic Department.
Faster meets and less cost make sense in the current college athletics environment.
It is important to understand that these cost saving mechanisms are not only helping to protect our remaining programs but make it more feasible for new programs to be added at new universities. The challenges we face with starting new programs usually come down to financial and Title IX obstacles. Although we might be losing a few opportunities in the short run, our aim is to increase our opportunities in the long run, by putting ourselves in a more enticing position for target universities to add Men’s Gymnastics programs.
Proposal: Require all 15 NCAA Universities to compete in at least 1 Head-to-Head dual meet.
Straw vote: 19 in favor; 4 opposed; 13 abstentions
Two of the main issues we identified with our meets are the difficulty in following the action as well as the difficulty in comparing the routines from one team to another when they are competing at the same time on different events. A head-to-head format means that both teams will compete on the same event, starting the competition on floor exercise, and alternating routines throughout the meet. This will help the audience in the stands, and on television, be able to follow the action much easier as there will only be one routine performed at a time. Fans will find it easier to compare two routines from two different teams on the same event rather than two teams on different events. This will create parity throughout the competition as teams will be going to low-scoring events and high scoring events at the same time. You will now be comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges. Alternating routines will keep the team scores level on the score board and help the fans follow the flow of the meet at a much higher level.
Proposal: Change the number of counting parts from 10 to 8.
Straw vote: 11 in favor; 13 opposed; 9 abstentions
At the 2016 FIG rule changes meeting a proposal was put forth to move to 8 skill routines. Needing a unanimous vote, the rule did not pass due to one vote against. At the 2018 World Championships there was a lot of conversation about moving to 8 skills in the next cycle. The idea on the CGA proposal was to jump start this process and get our USA athletes ready for the changes to come. Moving to 8-skill routines would lead to more exciting routines as athletes would leave out their last two filler skills and have more energy to jam pack their routines and finish through the dismount. We believe there would be less falls and that the meets would run faster as the routines would be shorter. We believe that scores would be closer as well leading to closer, more exciting meets. We also felt that 8-skill routines would lead to less acute and overuse injuries through our long NCAA season. The counter point to this proposal was to wait until the FIG officially passed the rule before we do.