Sunday, September 23, 2012

The NCAA Crisis: A General Overview

18 is a magical age. You can buy cigarettes and lottery tickets. You can frequent strip clubs. Oh, and there's this little thing called voting. But who cares about that?

For a male gymnast, one's 18th birthday is just as special. At that point, he is recognized as a man by the gymnastics community, and he typically starts competing as a senior (even though he can technically start competing as a senior at the age of 16).

It's okay, J-Ho, I still look like I am 12. When we are 50 and look 35, we won't mind.

But how should he go about training as a senior?  Should he continue training at his club? Should he move to Colorado to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center? Will one of the oil companies sponsor him? (Thus far, Kum N Go has not made the list.) Or should he go to college?

And what about those young lads who are okay level 9 or 10 gymnasts? They might have a college scholarship, or they might not. Chances of walking onto a men's gymnastics team are slim, so it might be time for him to give up competing, watch YouTube videos all day, and start blogging under the name Aunt Elfi.

Nowadays, it is extremely difficult to find a college men's gymnastics program--let alone one that will give you a scholarship. It was not always this way. During the 1981-1982 season, 79 Division I, II, and II teams were in existence. By 1991, that number had been reduced to 36. In 1995, the NCAA debated whether it would continue to hold a Division I championship because the the organization required a minimum of 40 teams. By 2001, that number had shrunk to 21, and 11 years later, in 2012, 17 teams are still holding on:

  1. Air Force
  2. Army
  3. Cal-Berkeley
  4. Illinois
  5. Illinois-Chicago (UIC)
  6. Iowa
  7. Michigan
  8. Minnesota
  9. Navy
  10. Nebraska
  11. Ohio State
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Penn State
  14. Springfield (Division III)
  15. Stanford
  16. Temple
  17. William & Mary
We shall call them, "The Stalwart 17." (Everything needs a nickname in gymnastics. Everything!)

So, how did we get here? How did we whittle away our college teams from 72 to 17? One would assume that universities would have recognized their role in producing America's Olympic gymnasts and would have tried to save their programs. (See appendix below.) But they didn't, or maybe the couldn't. Today, the internet believes that Title IX, an Education Amendment passed in 1972, led to the demise of intercollegiate men's gymnastics.

I, however, do not agree with this position. In my view, to scapegoat Title IX is to assume a rather simplistic view of what happened. If you are going to point fingers at Title IX, you better point them at the U.S. economy, athletic departments, and the NCAA, as well.

Over the course of the week, I will take a closer look at the history and statistics behind the decimation of collegiate men's gymnastics teams as I try to construct a more elaborate picture of what happened. Try is the operative word. Since most studies of NCAA athletics focus on basketball and football, I can glean only so much from the books. Nonetheless, what I have gleaned challenges a few of the claims that have been made on the internet. Tomorrow, I will take a look at those claims.

Stay tuned! Same Timmy time! Same Timmy channel!

Appendix: U.S. Olympians and the Universities Where They Trained

If I messed up someone's affiliation, feel free to correct me. There's only so much one can glean from Wikipedia pages and old USA Gymnastics biographies.


  1. Paul and Morgan Hamm were never part of the NCAA. They attended school at Ohio State and trained with Ohio State coach Myles Avery, but did not compete for Ohio State.

  2. Guard Young went to BYU, but trained at Oklahoma.

    "Young graduated from Brigham Young University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. He was recently inducted into BYU's Hall of Fame in 2010."

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