The NCAA has approved major changes to the women’s gymnastics post-season format, starting in 2019. The changes will replace the six-team format with four-team competition sessions, including the finals.
The main change is that the famous Super Six final, which includes the top-6 qualifying teams in the country, will be replaced by the ‘Four on the Floor’ final, which will include only the top-4 qualifying teams from the Semi-Finals.
The goal of the new format, the minutes read, is to ‘reduce the length of each meet in the championship by more than an hour, which places a priority on student-athlete health and well-being.’
Here is how the new format will work. There will be three rounds of regional competitions, Regional Play-In, Regionals and Super Regionals, held in 4 locations across the United States, instead of the current 6, on three consecutive days. Super Regionals will be followed by 2 Semi-Final sessions, formed of 4 teams each, and the Final, called ‘Four on the Floor’, which will also be formed of 4 teams, instead of the traditional 6.
In the first of the three rounds of Regional competition, called Regional Play-In, teams ranked 29 to 36 according to their Regional Qualifying Score (RQS) will compete in duo meets (4 meets with 2 teams each). The winner of each meet will advance to Regionals (1 team for each meet, for a total of 4 teams out of 8).
If this rule had been in place in 2017, the 8 teams to dispute the Regional Play-In would have been: Iowa State, New Hampshire, Kent State, Stanford, Penn State, BYU, North Carolina and Minnesota.
In addition to the 29–36-ranked teams, the Regional Play-In will feature the top 16 individual all arounders and the top 16 event specialists, based on their RQS, who are not part of advancing teams, that is, teams ranked 1–28.
The second round of competition is Regionals, which will include the top 28 teams in the country and the 4 teams that qualified from the Regional Play-In, for a total of 32 teams. These 32 teams will compete in 4-team format competitions, in 2 sessions for each of the 4 locations. In other words, each location will host two sessions of 4 teams each, for a total of 8 teams per location. The top 2 teams from each session will advance to the Super Regional, for a total of 16 teams out of 32.
With regards to individuals, the all-around winner of each play-in meet (from a non-qualifying team) and the top-finishing gymnast on each event (from a non-qualifying team) will compete at Regionals.
The third round of competition is Super Regionals, where the 16 teams qualified from Regionals will compete in quad-meets, 1 for each of the 4 locations (4 meets formed of 4 teams each, 1 in each of the 4 locations). The top 2 teams from each session will qualify to the National Semi-Finals.
Individually, the all-around winner of each Regional meet (from a non-qualifying team) will compete at the Super Regionals, alongside the top-finishing gymnast on each event (from a non-qualifying team).
The 8 teams that advanced from Super Regionals will compete in one of the 2 Semi-Final sessions. This is a major change to the current rule, according to which 12 teams compete in the two Semi-Finals. The top-2 teams from each seminal will advance to the Finals.
‘Four on the Floor’ Finals
The major change to the current rule is that the traditional Super Six Finals will be replaced by the ‘Four on the Floor’ Finals. As the name suggests, instead of 6 teams competing, only 4 teams will compete for the National title.
If this rule had been in place in 2017, Utah from Semi-Final 1 and Alabama from Semi-Final 2 would not have competed in the Finals.
Having 4 teams on the floor competing simultaneously instead of 6 means that there will not be any more ‘byes’, that is, those intervals in each rotation, when two teams did not compete.
THOUGHTS – PROS AND CONS
- There will be no more byes, which were hard on gymnasts’ endurance and concentration;
- Having 4 instead of 6 competing teams on the floor reduces scoring confusion;
- Shorter competitions are good for both gymnasts and viewers;
- The fact that all 4 teams will be competing simultaneously on all apparatuses increases the competition’s drama, and it creates a real finale atmosphere (our team working for The Perfect Ten Finale knows something about it and is a big fan!);
- More individual gymnasts from less renowned teams have the chance to compete in the post-season;
- The post-season, that is the most exciting part of the NCAA competitive year, will be longer and will include more gymnastics meets overall;
- A change, even though not necessary, is generally always good to keep things lively and interesting for both gymnasts and spectators.
- The main goal of these changes is the gymnasts’ wellbeing. However, having three Regional competitions in three consecutive days means that some teams could potentially compete three days in a row, which is very tough on the gymnasts’ health, much more than the byes;
- Less teams will compete in the final, which is a pity, as all top-six teams always produced unmissable gymnastics. It would have been very sad this year not to see Utah and Alabama in the Super Six;
- Was it necessary? The system was not perfect, but it has been working well for decades. The Super Six was a tradition, and it will be missed;
- The name ‘Four on the Floor’ is so unappealing – ‘Super Six’ is reminiscent of other important sports events in the U.S., most famously the Super Bowl. Would it not make more sense to call the Finals ‘Super Four’?
Article by Talitha Ilacqua