Categorized | Elite, Featured, Men's Gymnastics, NCAA

Aftermath of the Great Cal Debacle: The Future of Men’s Gymnastics

Posted on 07 October 2010 by admin

It’s now been a couple of weeks since Cal’s fateful announcement that their men’s gymnastics program is no more.  It generated a lot of buzz in the ensuing week, but the amount of news about it lately has slowed down to a trickle.  It’s as if gymnastics fans have resigned themselves to a potential demise of men’s college gymnastics.  We are down to two funded programs in the west, Stanford and Air Force.  The MPSF will lose two teams, Cal and Nebraska, after the upcoming season.  Nebraska will be joining the Big 10 in 2011-2012.  What does this bode for Stanford, Air Force and Oklahoma?  Will there be some sort of a new alignment, albeit geographically awkward and insane?

Cal’s feckless decision to drop men’s gymnastics, without regard to prestige and the program’s high-caliber standing in collegiate gymnastics, was nothing more than a shameless Title IX play and a cowardly way of dealing with what will ultimately be a short-term budgetary crisis.  118 male athletes and 45 female athletes paid the ultimate price with this alleged “fair outcome” to comply with Title IX.  Where’s the outrage?

What are the remaining men’s programs going to do about it?  What will USAG’s future role be?  Men’s collegiate gymnastics is far and away our country’s best Olympic farm system.  Without men’s collegiate gymnastics, our nation doesn’t stand a chance on the world stage.   Along with our elites who choose not to compete at the college level, our college athletes are important assets and keep the USA highly competitive.

We need a serious come hell or high water commitment from the entire gymnastics hierarchy to be forceful in guaranteeing the future of men’s collegiate gymnastics.  The same amount of bravery and strength our gymnasts exhibit every single day needs to go towards the promotion of our sport.  Now.

Individual men’s collegiate programs also need to take a serious look at how the more successful women’s programs market their teams.  Utah, Alabama, and Georgia come to mind.  These programs are somehow able to generate crowds of 10,000-plus for their home meets.  That is astounding.  Even more astounding is that they are sometimes able to generate larger crowds than men’s basketball.  When the exact feats are performed in Cirque du Soleil costumes for high-paying audiences of thousands every night, it is absurd that a typical college men’s gymnastics meet commands a paltry crowd of 150.  The men’s programs, in conjunction with the schools’ business and telecommunications departments, could craft together slick marketing campaigns for such a visually amazing sport, thus putting more fannies in the seats.

Men’s gymnastics cannot afford the elimination of any more collegiate programs.  The future of men’s gymnastics in this country has to include a realignment in both mindset and strategy.  The sport’s current success depends largely on men’s collegiate competition and the opportunities that it affords many of our junior athletes.  The programs left standing cannot afford the status quo, and neither can men’s gymnastics in this country as a whole.

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8 Comments For This Post

  1. Coach George Jessup Says:

    MONOPOLY- Long ago during the depression and other periods of hard economic times sports were cut/modified for economic reasons. Gymnastics needs a building and equipment. This actually was part of what shaped gymnastics into its 4 and 6 events. Gymnastics was at one time…. an educational tool that encompased many sports. Desire to regroup/reorganize “gymnastics” along with hard economic times whittled away “gymnastics” into the competitive acrobatic natured sport it is today. Ball sports pulled out from under the gymnastic umbrella and formed their own world, Other gymnastic like activities (TnT, Rhythmic etc.) also pulled away into their own. Hard economic times whittled further and gymnastic training as a fitness tool dropped dramatically in the depression and was replaced by cheaper to operate ball sports. Cheap to operate ball sporting “events” (Pro ball teams) began to be used to entertain/make money in the deperesion. (granted that is a somewhat loose rendition of history but the basic concept is still there).

    This pushing away from gymnastics like activities toward cheaper ball sports in City Rec. programs, state rec. programs, etc etc was the beginning of the growth of the Ball Sport MONOPOLY.

    The more kids participated in these cheaper to run balls sports…. the more kids dreamed the dream….. of ball sports.. the more a single mindset of “ball sports are king” developed. A strong single mind set or GROUP THINK is no different than a Monopoly when you consider what it does to things that differ in mindset. It tends to push them away and try to destroy them. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND because our sport professionals of today…. the ones who are the college Heads, Athletic Sponsors, Athletic Directors COME FROM THIS GROUP THINK. They can not see past their ball sports for they have been indoctrinated into the one mental mindset of the Monopoly.

    FOR US TO SAVE GYMNASTICS.. and other Olympic sports we MUST look at the whole ball sport industry as a Monopoly. The tools of breaking up a Monopoly need to be used.

  2. Ono No Komachi Says:

    Glad to see continued discussion of this…

    Those Rugby and Baseball players sure aren’t taking this lying down.

    Baseball is staging a demonstration this Saturday at Cal’s Evan’s field to protest the cuts.

    “Our goal is to reinstate all the sports that have been eliminated,” said Bobby Tulk, who played baseball at Cal in the early 1970s.

    “The unified message coming from the athletic department is that you can’t bring back one, this is a package deal,” said Andre Hampy, a former two-time gymnastics national champion at Cal and spokesman for Cal Gymnastics Forever. “Until that message changes from the athletic department, I think (banding together) is our only choice.”

    “It’s the only way to go,” echoed baseball’s Tulk. “Title IX (gender equity requirements) kind of drives that spirit, too. We feel there’s no sport that’s been eliminated that feels any different than we do.”

    Gentle reminder – the only Title lX agenda Cal really had here was trying to avoid being sued by private parties or being investigated by the OCR. And women athletes were cut. Can’t blame that one on Title lX. And the males did NOT have to go just because the female gymnasts did. This is not the law.

    It was a cowardly decision, nonetheless. Cutting the teams with some of the lowest budgets on campus doesn’t seem like the best way to save money.

    What probably hurt the Cal men’s gymnasts was the “other schools don’t have it, so why should we” factor and the lack of local competition.

    It would be nice if the ASU and University of Washington clubs could be returned to varsity status, or maybe restart a club at UCLA.

    Some of the remaining teams are pretty safe right now, but even those will end up being clubs or less if the rest get cut. They should think hard about that. They need to hang together or they will all hang separately.

    And there should be outreach to young people to encourage interest. Air Force and University of Oklahoma are already doing this with local elementary schools. OU does a great job with this. The other teams should follow suit.

    As far as Title lX is concerned, it’s either legislate, litigate, or live with it. So far the first two have been failures.

  3. Ono No Komachi Says:

    P.S. Cal Men’s Gym had the lowest operating expense and one of the lowest budgets of any sport at Cal.

    Ball sports may be cheaper, but the NCAA sure is willing to spend on balls.

    Get ready to be sick. The highest paid state employee in California is Mr Tedford, the Cal football coach. He’s making more than any of the world famous physicians working at UCSF.

    Cal spent around a million bucks on womens bball, and it has the highest per capita cost of any Cal team, but those people could not be cut – because the Pac-10 requires a school to have that sport to be part of the conference.

  4. Ice9 Says:

    Title IX(Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act), originally had nothing to do with sports in college (The NCAA didn’t want anything to do with it as they tried unsuccessfully to claim that the implementation of Title IX was illegal)needs to be overhauled, the DOE & the OCR needs to seriously reconsider all points of the matter and how it pertains to sports in general. Cal on the other hand does need to find a way to market the mens gymnastics program better to draw more people in. As for now, the women’s program needs to be out as a sport there, until they can figure out how to become more competitive (Last place is not competitive)! If UCLA can drop a successfull mens program right after sending 3 men to the Olympics & keep the womens program going, why can’t Cal just drop the women’s gymnastics program & keep the women’s Lacrosse team to keep the numbers fair?

  5. Rocky Says:

    We suffer the same problem at the high school level…in my city (over 600,000) of 5 large school districts, only THREE high schools have a gymnastics program. Athletes from our local private gyms and the private gym owners refuse to participate in our programs, so we are forced to build our own athletes from scratch, at the age of 15! Where is the gymnastic community support!!

  6. Rocky Says:

    In our district, we are constantly being threatened of “being cut” because there are “only three schools with gymnastics programs.” My team is NOT a state winning team, and cannot hope to be when we are competing against other teams at the regional and state levels, when all of those athletes have been doing gymnastics since they were 6. We try to advocate for our programs, but there are no more coaches, and no more principals/administrations willing to open new programs. Some athletes go on to coach at private gym, but then never continue/finish college to become certified teachers, then forsake the public gymnastics system that created them! I am overwhelmed with grief about this. We don’t stand a chance….I want to be more involved. Can anyone tell me how I can help?

    I have been coaching at this current high school for 3 years now, and saved the program. Coming in, it was condemned to an “after school activity” after enjoying close to 12 years of prosperity. The athletic period was taken away, and has been re-established in the last two years. My numbers are growing on my varsity team and my class loads (for PE gymnastics) are growing as well. I nurture my students so that they come back to give back to the programs, i.e., to judge and hopefully, later, become assistant coaches or coaches of their own programs. But it is a long way off.

    I was a gymnast that began at 15, my coach (who is a woman coaching a men’s and women’s team at the same time) is amazing and as maintained/nurtured these three programs for 25 years. At one point, she coached men and women, at two different schools! Four teams!! Where are all the gymnastics supporters?! Again, I want to be involved, but our hands are EXTREMELY full over here….we need advocates for ALL gymnastics programs and we need more qualified, high quality gymnastics coaches (former athletes?)to give back to their programs!!

  7. Ono No Komachi Says:

    ITA with everything in Rocky’s comments.

    There’s been plenty of action on the part of some MLB players to try to save the baseball program.

    Yeah, these ball players have a lot of money, but so some in the gym community – are you listening Shawn and Nastia?

    Valeri Liukin? Anybody?

    There are two signs that all hope is not lost.

    1) The Cal gymnasts feel that the decision was made long ago – implying Cal had no intention of supporting Men’s gym. There is some evidence that points in the other direction – it was a last minute thing. Cal still has a long way to go be be Title lX compliant by the time all these teams are really gone. They plan to do that by manipulating rosters on paper. If they had really know exactly which teams were toast, it would have made sense to be done with that part before cutting live bodies.

    2) This whole process started 13 months ago…enough time for the Chancellor to have given all these teams their walking papers at the end of last season. That’s usually how it goes when teams are cut. And that’s the end of it.

    For gym, there is a whole 9 months to go – a lot can happen in 9 months. Now isn’t the time to quit.

    Rugby has a real shot at getting reinstated. If that happens, some of the women will come along as well. Might was well let the rest of the guys come back.

  8. Camilla Says:

    I have a son and a daughter in gymnastics living here in Salt Lake City. Utah consistentlhy wins every year on crowd generation for their meets. This is what I have observed are some highlights of their marketing strategy.

    #1: Giving out LOTS of free tickets and FREE posters.My children come home from school with a voucher than lets the family in for free to the meets in the upper bowl. You can trade in the voucher for 5 bucks and upgrade to seats in the lower bowl. Getting families in for free generates interest and makes it something a lot of the families in the area choose to do for an activity on a Friday night. The team also gives out lots of free posters during the meets. You can pick them up at many tables outside the arena. There is something about a child hanging a poster in the house that generates a lifetime fan.

    #2: Coverage of meets on a local network and reports of the meet results on the 4 major local news networks during the sports news.

    #3: A great relationship with local gyms. The team hosts a ‘meet-and-greet’ and sends out an invitation to all local gyms as well as a stack of those free tickets to meets that I told you about.

    #4 Major advertising on the radio and a HUGE billboard on the main freeway ramp going out of dowtown Salt Lake.

    I agree that is mainly about how you market the teams that will determine their popularity. Anyone who has seen a gymnast in person will be hooked. It is just giving the lay public an incentive to show up initially so that they can become fans.

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