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With 10 national titles to its credit and as the sport's attendance leader for 21 of the past 24 seasons, the University of Utah gymnastics team is one of the most successful and followed programs in the country.
The Utes' exposure is about to reach an even higher profile. Of its six home meets this season, four will be televised nationally by College Sports Television (CSTV), the Mountain West Conference's national TV partner, starting next season.
Utah's home meets against Nebraska (Jan. 20), Minnesota (Feb. 17), Georgia (March 3) and BYU (March 24) will be aired first on KJZZ the Sunday following each meet, then on CSTV, for which times have yet to be announced.
Many of Utah's meets have been broadcast by KJZZ in the past, but the national exposure will put Utah on par with other top programs, such as Alabama and Georgia, which receive national exposure on ESPN through a deal with the Southeastern Conference.
Utah's deal is only for this season.
"We've never had the opportunity for national exposure before," Utah coach Greg Marsden said. "What is exciting for me is that this isn't being forced as something tagged onto a football or basketball package."
Utah has averaged more than 10,000 fans to its home meets since 1992, but has been at a slight disadvantage on the recruiting trail because it lacked the national TV time given to some of the other programs.
"There is no question from a recruiting aspect this is important to us," Marsden said. "We have gymnasts come from all parts of the country, and sometimes their parents can't always make it to the meets week in and week out. This is critically important to us."
Utah, which finished third at the 2005 national championships, began official practices a week ago. According to Marsden, all of the Utes returned in good shape and without injuries with the exception of Rachel Tidd.
The junior took the summer off to rest her troublesome back, but down time hasn't improved her situation and she has yet to practice with the rest of the team.
The problem limited her competitions last year, and at best that will be the situation again this season. At worst, she may not be able to compete at all.
"It's not out of the realm of possibility at this point," Marsden said. "We're not ready to make that decision, but her back isn't getting any better, but there is no need to make that decision yet. We're giving her every opportunity to work through it."
One notable illness from the summer break was sophomore Ashley Postell, who suffered from a bout of mononucleosis and couldn't work out as hard as she wanted. But Marsden said it may have had a positive effect in the end.
"It forced her to take some time off and she couldn't wear herself out," he said. "She is looking great."