Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Tie?!?!

Today was a great day for the Gator Nation as the gymnastics squad repeated as National Champions. Today was also a great day for the Oklahoma Sooners as their gymnastics squad also won the National Championship, their first in program history. Wait a minute... How in the world are their two National Champions???

We can thank the judges for this conundrum. From what I can remember, the Gators needed something around a 9.7 to claim the National Championship outright. After the last Gator gymnast did her floor routine (I would have names if I could get access to the stats), she was awarded a 9.5, which put Florida and Oklahoma in a deadlock at the end of the Super Six.

I was ready for some super awesome tie breaker to decide an outright champion. Apparently, that is not how NCAA women's gymnastics works at all. Both Florida and Oklahoma were awarded the National Championship. I didn't know whether to be excited or upset. The Gators were National Champs... but so was Oklahoma. This ruling left a sour taste in my mouth after the meet. How can an institution like the NCAA just grant a tie in one of the biggest stages of one of its D1 sports? What angers me more is that the Gators defeated the Sooners in the regular season 197.875 to 197.225! That should be taken into account here when deciding a National Championship. Besides that, is it really hard to have one do or die event to decide a winner?

What they should have done was picked a random event between the Vault, Uneven Parallel Bars, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise and had one girl from each team compete in one of these events. At that point, it turns into something like college football overtime where the girls are trying to match each other until somebody succumbs to the pressure. Something like this to decide a National Championship would have had the crowd on the edge of its seat! In my opinion, there would be nothing cooler than seeing a girl land a clutch jump to win the National Championship! Anybody remember Kerri Strug in the 1996 Olympics?

Having seen this very lackluster ending to a National Championship, it makes me wonder what would have happened if other leagues adhered to this "tie" philosophy? I am about to list a few moments in sports that would have turned out differently if both teams were declared winners.

  • The 1997 World Series between the Florida Marlins and Cleveland Indians went 11 innings and was won by the Florida Marlins on a walk off hit by Edgar Renteria. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, both Florida and Cleveland are World Series Champions at the conclusion of the ninth inning.
  • The 2003 Fiesta Bowl between the Miami Hurricanes and Ohio State Buckeyes went into overtime after Miami tied it with a field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, both Miami and Ohio State are National Champions for the 2002 college football season.
  • Last year's NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs went into overtime after Ray Allen made a late three to tie the game. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, the game is a tie and San Antonio wins the series 3-2-1. I guess in this case, a Game 7 would have to be played to determine if the Heat could be co-champions with the Spurs, but there would be no outright winners.
  • There have been three NFC Conference Championship games in the NFL that have gone to overtime (2007, 2009, 2011).  Under NCAA gymnastics rules, two NFC teams would have gone to the Super Bowl on three different occasions! That's just absurd!
  • Almost every NHL playoff game this year has gone to overtime, it would be a tie palooza if the NCAA gymnastics committee was in charge.
  • In the 2009 and 2010 National Championship games for NCAA lacrosse (Syracuse vs Cornell in 2009 and Duke vs Notre Dame in 2010, respectively), both games went to overtime. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, all of these teams would have been co-champions.
  • In the 2006 and 2010 FIFA World Cup Finals (Italy vs France in 2006 and Spain vs Netherlands in 2010, respectively), both matches required extra time and one came down to penalty kicks. Under NCAA gymnastics rules, About 1/4 of Europe is celebrating a FIFA World Cup title.
All of the sporting events mentioned above were settled in some sort of overtime and led to some pretty memorable finishes in sports history. I am happy that the Florida Gators won back-to-back National Championships, but it is upsetting that they have to share such a notable distinction with another university.

When I was young, I played rec baseball where everybody got a trophy at the end of the season. When I played varsity baseball, I learned that you have to win if you want a trophy. If you're tied after regulation, you keep playing until a winner is decided. I only played in one tie, and that was because it was too dark to finish the game. This is Division 1 Women's Gymnastics! To have the sport's pinnacle event in the Super Six end in a tie is doing a disservice to gymnastics fans and the gymnasts who train all year to get there.

Hopefully, the NCAA will look at this incident and institute a new rule that will prevent "co-National Champions" from ever happening again. If they can add a Final Four to college football and add more teams to March Madness, then I'm sure this should be a pretty easy thing to fix. Then again, it's the NCAA, and they make even the easiest tasks seem very difficult.

My Final Thoughts: Go Gators Gymnastics! Congrats on the back-to-back National Championships and I can't wait to watch them go for the three-peat next year!

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