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NCAA trims gymnastics final round to 4 schools

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 23 2009 12:00 a.m. MDT

Utah gymnastics coach Greg Marsden and others have been working for a long time to change the way that NCAA women's gymnastics is presented to its audience.

For their sport to thrive in the long haul, Marsden and Co. have felt that the NCAA needed to change some things to increase interest in it.

That hasn't been an easy process.

"I feel like we were trying to get the health plan passed," joked Marsden on Tuesday.

The battle to get gymnastics to where Marsden and others would like it to be is far from over, but they scored an important victory when it was announced that the NCAA Championships Sports Management Cabinet has given final approval to change the format for its National Championships.

Beginning in 2011, four teams will advance to the final round of the National Championships instead of six, which will shorten the event from three hours to two hours and will make it easier to follow.

In turn, Marsden hopes that will pave the way for CBS to broadcast the championship meet live, instead of on a delayed basis.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, rejected a second major proposal that would've counted all six of a team's scores on each routine instead of only the top five...

Of the two proposals, however, Marsden said he believes the Final-Four concept was the more important of the two. And there's still a chance the six-up, six-count principle could eventually come to fruition, as it's been sent back to the NCAA's gymnastics committee.

"I feel OK with things," said Marsden of the report the NCAA sent out to its members. "I realize that things are typically a compromise, especially when you're looking at change. I think this is a step forward. Of the two, in my opinion, this is the more important one to get done."

Besides the two major proposals, the NCAA also solidified the dates for its postseason meets - regionals will now always be the first weekend in April and the championships will always be the third week - and made a couple other minor adjustments.

Clearly, though, moving to a Final Four for gymnastics was the major news from the NCAA's report.

"From my perspective, I think it's a positive because I think it's gonna be much more understandable for spectators that come and see it," said Marsden. "Instead of a three-hour competition, it's gonna be two hours or less. People are gonna be able to see where teams are at, if not at the end of each routine, certainly at the end of each rotation."

Marsden and others have been pushing to have their sport's championship event televised live, and moving to a Final-Four format would seem to potentially make that possible.

The NCAA won't move to the new format until the 2010-2011 season, but as Marsden pointed out, that could be a good thing.

"It give us a year to talk with CBS and see what the possibilities are and get some feedback from them," Marsden said. "Hopefully they're serious enough about their interest. They certainly discussed like they were interested with some of us at the championship this year.

"Whether that was real or not, only time will tell. Whether it was people who are in a position to make that kind of a decision, only time will tell. But I hope that the NCAA and our committee will work on behalf of gymnastics to try and get CBS to do that."

e-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com

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