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Operating on the idea that one, loud unified voice is more powerful than disjointed lobbying efforts, gymnastics coaches in the Pac-12 are bonding together to push for a new format for the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
The coaches, who recently met at the Pac-12 offices in San Francisco, want to see the format change from 12 teams to eight for the championships.
The eight-team competition would make the championships more TV-friendly since it would negate the need for byes since all of the teams could compete at once, making it a quicker meet where the scores could be tracked easier.
Such a format often was pushed by longtime Utah coach Greg Marsden, who announced his retirement shortly after his team finished second to Florida at the NCAAs in one of the closest meets the championships have had.
Unfortunately, the meet was shown live only on the Internet, preventing the sport from earning some much-needed exposure in the general public.
While many coaches have hesitated to buy into the eight-team format, recent TV ratings have apparently changed some minds, said Utah co-coaches Megan Marsden and Tom Farden, who have taken up Greg Marsden's crusade for more exposure.
According to stats released by the Pac-12, viewership was up 495 percent from the 2013-14 season and Monday viewership was up 280 percent from Monday meets in 2013-14.
"Now with that kind of viewership, I think we are all on board," Farden said. "Our colleagues were encouraged so there wasn't much resistance. We know we need to streamline this product and make it more fan-friendly."
The SEC saw similar results in its broadcast numbers, making Farden cautiously optimistic the format can be changed. Resistance could come from smaller schools that are concerned that their chances of reaching the NCAAs would be hurt, but are not so concerned about being on national TV. However, Farden hopes the Pac-12 coaches and others who align themselves with the league will prevail.
"Being on TV is paramount for the sport," he said. "We've seen the interest in the sport and this generation of coaches knows how important it is."
Chris Waller, UCLA's assistant who is acting as the league's rep at NCAA meetings May 18-20 in Indianapolis, is hopeful other schools will support the move, understanding how important it is to be on TV.
"We have this incredible window of opportunity because the TV ratings have exploded," he said. "We have to make sure we continue that growth, and where we aren't seeing that growth is in the postseason, which should be our biggest meets of the season."
The format would require some changes to the regional formats too, which currently feature six competitions with two teams moving on to nationals from each group. Under the proposed format, there would be eight regionals with four teams each, with the winner moving on to nationals.
"This would bring us more in line with other sports," Waller said. "There is no reason women's gymnastics can't be like March Madness and have its own following and interest."
While the format would make the championships easier to televise, ESPN isn't dictating the change, but is involved in discussions, spokesperson Keri Potts said.
"This is the NCAA's decision and as their partner we have been and will continue to be involved in discussions as it relates to potential NCAA championship format or schedule changes," she said.
Still, Utah's coaches, and Waller, are hopeful the change can not only be made, but made in time for the 2016 NCAA Championships.
"We finally have enough people on board," Waller said. "It's just too bad this couldn't have been done when Greg was still coaching."