Maybe you've noticed. Gymnastics scores have gone through the roof this season. Almost every team in the country has set a school record for team score this season, some of them upping their marks by three, four and five points in a sport where .25 of a point is a decisive margin.
"It's a joke. Even the athletes laugh at it," says Oklahoma Coach Becky Buwick, whose Sooners are seeded third for Saturday's Midwest NCAA Regional at Utah's Huntsman Center.The 4 p.m. session will see Brigham Young, Utah State and Arizona perform, along with unattached all-arounders. At 7 p.m., the top four seeds compete - Nebraska, Utah, Oklahoma and Arizona State.
The five regional winners get automatic berths to the NCAA Championships April 14-15 at Georgia; the rest of the 12-team NCAA field will come from the teams with the next-best National Qualifying Scores, which are determined two-thirds by regional score and one-third by Regional Qualifying Score (best two home scores, best two away scores and one more of either).
"Just about everyone would agree the scoring has gotten pretty out of hand," says Nebraska Coach Rick Walton, whose 'Huskers have the top RQS in this region, second only to defending national champion Alabama.
Buwick says gymnastics is an entertainment that can't keep people interested if scores are in the 8.6 range, but, she says, "We've seen within our own team some outrageous scores."
Though everybody knows the scoring's too high, there's the usual paranoia among coaches that one regional will let the scores fly this weekend while the others hold tight and that some teams won't get proper national seeding.
"That's a concern," says Walton.
"Of course you're frightened by it," Buwick says.
Buwick and Utah Coach Greg Marsden both said a conference of meet referees held a week before the regionals is supposed to help produce uniform scores, "but every meet has its own personality," Marsden says.
"I think we've outgrown the system," he says, noting that college gymnastics use "Junior Olympic rules when kids are doing elite routines. Especially among the top teams, the kids are doing so much more than is required it puts the judges in an awkward situation."