What will conference realignment mean for college gymnastics? — Other gym news — Thoughts from College Gym News staff

The IX: Gymnastics Saturday with Lela Moore, Sept. 9, 2023

Happy Gymnastics Saturday! Navigating the changes in college conferences over the last few weeks is like entering the Upside Down.

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It is a world where geography ceases to exist, where old rivalries lose their power and new ones form, and it appears to be mostly because of TV rights for ball sports. All together now, gymnasts: Thanks a lot, football.

If you had told me just a few months ago that the Pac-12 would effectively cease to exist as we know it, I would have laughed in your face. I’d say the joke’s on us. But in fact, it appears to be on them. 

In the fall of 2022, the Pac-12 – already minus gymnastics powerhouse UCLA and USC, who had announced a few months earlier that they would join the Big Ten in 2024 — got an offer from ESPN that would give every school remaining in the conference $30 million a year for media rights. That’s just slightly less than the two initial defectors stand to receive for media rights from the Big Ten next year. Instead of jumping for joy, though, the Pac-12 asked for more: $50 million per school, to be exact. ESPN effectively laughed in its face and slammed the door. 

Fox, which controls the Big Ten’s media rights and a piece of the Big 12’s (which itself lost Texas and Oklahoma to the SEC, a deal announced in 2021 that will also come to fruition next year), wasn’t particularly interested in the remains of the Pac-12. Fox was able to lure Oregon and Washington out of the Pac-12 to the Big Ten with a promise to include them in the same lucrative media deal that attracted UCLA and USC. Those schools announced their defections on Aug. 4.

That same day,  Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado announced a move to the Big 12. BYU also picked up and joined the Big 12.  And, in a final blow to the Pac-12, Stanford and Cal announced on Sept. 1 that they would join the ACC, along with Southern Methodist University.  

Now, the Mountain West is looking to snag the two remaining Pac-12 teams that haven’t realigned themselves, Oregon State and Washington State, and perhaps rebrand with the Pac-12 name. 

It’s a lot to keep track of. And while this impacts all sports, what does it mean for former Pac-12 teams in gymnastics?

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We’re going to see UCLA and Washington (Big Ten) and Stanford and Cal (ACC) traveling to the East Coast and the Midwest for meets. Rutgers, Michigan, and Michigan State (Big Ten) and North Carolina, NC State, Pitt and Clemson (ACC) will head west. That’s a lot of travel, and likely more days out of class than professors might be accustomed to. Oklahoma extends the SEC a bit farther west, and the Big 12 will become a bit more spread out as well, but it won’t be as significant travel-wise as for coastal teams. 

And storied Pac-12 rivalries like UCLA-Utah won’t be the same when they aren’t competing for conference titles. 

Some rivalries might become more interesting, though. BYU and Utah might get to explore their in-state rivalry now that they are both Big 12 members, but they aren’t as evenly matched as UCLA and Utah. Oklahoma rarely felt challenged, gymnastically speaking, in the Big 12, but SEC meets stand to get a lot more interesting with the team that has won six national championships in the last decade showing up.

And the TV! Will Big Ten gymnastics broadcasts stop showing entire events from a single camera suspended from the ceiling? Will the BYU announcers get some bigger air in the Big 12? Will we actually get to watch the Big 12 outside the southwestern United States? Will the SEC protractor catch an Oklahoma gymnast in a short handstand? 

Finally, it will be interesting to see how the Pac-12 teams compete this year, their last in this dying gasp of a conference. Will they already be looking ahead, or will they bring a renewed focus?

It all still feels lopsided to me, but while it has been a wild ride watching the Pac-12 implode, it is going to be exciting to see who makes the most of their new conference homes.

Other gym news

Simone Biles put her Paris goals out in the world. Pretty sure we gym fans already knew that, but ok.

Lynnzee Brown on beginning her coaching career at Penn State. 

Levi Jung-Ruivivar will compete for the Philippines going forward. 

Sacramento State is raising money for new equipment. 

Collge gymnastics schedules are coming out! Here’s Alabama’s.

The Canadian worlds team was announced. 

Ruby Evans becomes the first non-English gymnast on Team Great Britain since 2006. 

Germany’s Elisabeth Seitz will not compete at worlds after tearing her Achilles (noooooooo!). 

Eve du Ruiter of the Netherlands tore her ACL (nooooooo!).

The Gymternet brings us results from the Mersin Challenge Cup (highlight: Chuso vault gold!). 

Kendra Combs moves from West Virginia to become an assistant coach at Illinois State.

More on the situation at Utah from The Salt Lake Tribune

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Five at The IX: Thoughts from the College Gym News staff

It’s back to school time! Now that NCAA gymnasts are headed back to campus, I decided to check in with the College Gym News staffers. (Full disclosure: These are my coworkers; I am a freelance feature writer for the site.) I Slacked the team to see what they are most looking forward to seeing this fall, and these were their responses. Responses have been edited for clarity. 

Elizabeth Grimsley, editor-in-chief: I cannot get enough of Nike Christmases. I also can’t wait for the schedules to come out and little glimpses of floor choreography.

Emma Hammerstrom, editor, Data Team: As a student manager [at Minnesota]: Nike Christmas. Albeit, mine is smaller, but it’s my favorite time of fall. 

Floor teasers. I love seeing the little pieces of everyone’s floor routines and being able to string it all together come January!

And, of course, seeing which freshmen slot into some of the more depleted lineups that lost a lot of returners.

Brandis Heffner, co-managing editor: I’m excited to see videos of potential upgrades and the following speculation over whether they’ll see competition or not!

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Rebekah Frank, copyeditor: I second Brandis, as well as which teams have upped their social media game.

I’m also curious to see Sirena Linton at Arkansas. It seems like both Maggie O’Hara and Norah Flatley had good experiences transferring later in their college careers, so I’m interested to see how Linton likes it.

Claire Billman, senior editor, SEC: Schoenherr’s transfer to LSU was obviously a shocker, and I’m really interested to see what she brings to the Tigers/how big of a loss this is for the Gators.

Between all of the transfers, fifth years and top-rated freshmen — I genuinely don’t know who’s going to come out on top of the SEC this season.

Savanna Whitten, Big 12 and MRGC editor: Transfers, transfers, transfers! How they impact the teams they joined and the effect on the team they left. There’s been so many, so it’s going to be interesting.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Lela Moore