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Lincoln, Neb. » As he does every year, Utah coach Greg Marsden is pushing to change the format for the NCAA Championships. His ideal scenario is to do away with the 12-team format and take it to eight teams, which would eliminate the need for byes in the competitions and would take only around two hours to complete instead of 3-plus.
In addition, he's also pushing for all the routines to count rather than dropping the low score as it is now. He'd also like to see all scores count for teams to qualify for regionals and do away with the tedious regional qualifying scoring system, which is an average of certain road and home scores.
"We need to simplify things and make it more understandable and exciting to the average sports fan," he said. "Counting all scores is kind of like when volleyball went to rally scoring, it changed the nature of that sport."
Marsden might have more luck this year than in the past because CBS is interested in switching to a live coverage format rather than showing the championships on tape delay as it does now, but would need a quicker format to do so.
The 2009 championships will be broadcast May 9 at noon.
"If we go live, who knows how that might affect competition, they might tell us when the breaks are and things like that, but we have to create interest in the sport," Marsden said. "We're losing the battle because sports like soccer and volleyball are passing us by and we are stagnant."
The proposals will be discussed at the coaches meetings in May and the NCAA committee meetings in June.
Individuals of note
SUU's Elise Wheeler , who is the school's first gymnastics All-American, took a step on her bars routine and scored a 9.7875 to finish 13th out of 16 competitors. She finished sixth on the balance beam with a 9.875. ... Former Utah gymnast Sarah Shire , now at Missouri, finished 11th on the vault (9.5).
The Utes have just two freshmen coming in next season, Meg Whitney and Katelyn Mohr . The third member of their signing class, Australian Chloe Sims , passed the SAT and had solid grades but didn't have all the necessary core classes to get through the NCAA Clearinghouse and won't join the Utes.
Illinois coach Bob Starkell , who led his team to the NCAA Championships for the first time, was named the Coach of the Year. ... Georgia's Courtney Kupets was named the AAI Senior Gymnast of the Year.