Utah's Greg Marsden says he's tilting at windmills like Don Quixote, but he won't let the NCAA off the hook without a fight.
"We're the least affected school, but the principle bothers me," says Marsden about the NCAA refusal Monday afternoon to honor a decision by an Alabama gymnast to return an award she received but didn't earn as NCAA co-champ on balance beam.A scoring error that went unnoticed until an hour after the meet Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala., gave Gina Basile a tie for first place on the beam with Utah's Missy Marlowe with 9.875 scores.
The error was discovered by reporters and brought to Marsden's attention because no official remained in Coleman Coliseum.
Basile's score actually averaged out to 9.825, which would have tied for third with Oregon State's Chari Knight. Georgia's Hope Spivey had 9.85.
Marsden alerted the NCAA women's gymnastics executive committee, which convened following the awards banquet and decided the wrong results would stand because an NCAA rule deems things official once the scoresheet is signed.
Monday, Alabama announced that Basile did not want a title she didn't win and would accept the third-place award.
The NCAA won't let her.
"Her sportsmanship is commendable," says NCAA Assistant Director of Championships Nancy Latimore of Kansas City, who was present at the meet. "But there has to be a point when results are declared final and official, and for gymnastics, that is after the coaches and judges have verified the scoresheet and signed it.
"The committee position remains the same," Latimore says.
The tie stands, Spivey's third and Knight is out of the awards in fourth.
Marsden, who says college athletics is his love, is "incensed with the gymnastics committee" over "this ludicrous scenario.
"The NCAA exists to protect the athletes and schools they represent," says Marsden. "They're supposed to make decisions that are philosophically right, not use the rulebook to justify mistakes.
"This is their opportunity to do the right thing," Marsden says. "We're going to take it to the NCAA executive committee."
Oregon State Coach Jim Turpin said he also will appeal. He is surprised the NCAA won't honor Basile's wishes. "I just assumed the NCAA would take care of it. They should let the facts speak for themselves," he said.
"Everyone involved wants it taken care of," says Georgia Coach Suzanne Yoculan. She said she'd join an appeal if the other three schools - Utah, Oregon State and Alabama - band together as one complainant, but she will not appeal if there isn't a united front.
Yoculan said she'd contact the other coaches, including Alabama's Sarah Patterson, about a united appeal.
Patterson says Alabama just wants to be rid of the turmoil and enjoy its team NCAA championship won on Friday. That is unaffected by the mistake, which occurred in individual-event finals.
An appeal would prolong the agony.
However, Patterson says, "It ought to be up to her (Basile) to give it back if she wants to. She doesn't want anything that's not hers."
Marsden, Marlowe and Yoculan said they feel sorry for Basile and agree she is a major victim of this mistake, which started when the head judge misaveraged the four judges' scores, doing the arithmetic in her head, as per usual. It went through several other checkpoints - the meet referee, a scorer at the judges' table who relayed numbers, the computer operator and the committee - and judges and coaches signed an incorrect scoresheet.
"I didn't look at it," Patterson said. She checked her scores Friday, but, like most coaches, she considers individual-events night gravy.
"It's probably one we won't win, but we're going to draft the letter, see it through and make them make a decision," says Marsden. Then, he says, he'll be able to sleep at night. He doubts some others will.