by Anna Rose Johnson and Chris Korotky

There are significant changes coming to men’s NCAA gymnastics! Last Thursday, a handful of new rules were approved by the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel that will impact dual meet formats as well as scoring in team competitions.

First up on the list is the format for dual meets: In a press release on NCAA.com, it was announced that starting next season, “dual meets must follow the head-to-head format, with gymnasts from both teams alternating performances on the same apparatus.” Designed so that fans will have an easier time following the meets, the new format “also should provide consistency within the judging panel for all competitors on each event.”

Another major change is that men’s meets will now be five-up, five-count instead of six-up, five-count, which will abbreviate competitions for TV broadcasts. There will also be a new six-minute halftime after three events of dual meets.

“We, the CGA, are clearly willing to keep adjusting our format to provide a better viewing experience for the audience, both the in person crowd and the TV viewers,” says Thom Glielmi, the Head Coach at Stanford, whom we recently caught up with for his thoughts on these changes. “We have had multiple conversations, meetings and reviews of how best to keep providing an optimal experience for the athletes while formations the competitions to be fan friendly. Gymnastics is so exciting but we have yet to figure out how best to captivate the viewers while addressing the competitors’ needs to maximize performance. I believe these format adjustments bring us closer to that formula.”

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel also approved changes to rules for virtual meets, particularly about how routines will be filmed, including that video recordings “must continue uninterrupted if there is a fall during the performance. Each routine filmed must also be recorded simultaneously.”

Additionally, a warmup time of an hour and a half on the competition equipment has been added, “plus a minimum of 30 minutes of general warmup must be provided for the visitors before a competition.”

“The changes the rules committee made for the coming NCAA season [are designed to] help with fans’ appreciation of the sport and streamline our meets,” says Mark Williams, the Head Coach at Oklahoma. “We are hoping to make our meets run more quickly and attract more opportunities to be televised. The guys (on the Oklahoma gymnastics team) I talked with like the idea of competing on the same event, during the same rotation. They think it will add excitement, especially at the end of the meet if the teams are close. The five-up, five-count isn’t a big change and the warm-up change is something they have not done but think will help speed the meet along.”

“I think our coaches’ organization has been looking for some changes to better engage fans and make our format more TV-friendly; these are a great step in the right direction,” says Justin Spring, the Head Coach at Illinois. “In my opinion we still have a lot more work to do.”

Photo Credit: Lloyd Smith for Inside Gymnastics