Changes to scoring force teams to alter strategies

Matt Perkins

Remember when everyone was in panic mode over a thing commonly referred to as Y2K?

Computer meltdowns, technology going awry and who knows what else.

In the end, the over-dramatized concerns were never a factor, and life went on.

But for Minnesota’s men’s gymnastics team and coach Mike Burns, this year’s International Gymnastics Federation decision to abandon the universal 10.0 scoring system has caused massive Y2K-like skepticism.

“This will give us an opportunity to change so many of the things that need to be changed with scores that can end up above a 10.0,” Burns said in a statement made about the federation’s scoring changes. “Scoring programs, score sheets, national rankings, etc. – this is like Y2K all over again.”

The new system, which was created after some saw problems in the old scoring system at the Athens Olympics, will be an open-ended system that allows athletes to score above a 10.0.

The International Gymnastics Federation developed the system hoping it would push athletes to expand the difficulty of their routines.

The 2005 World Championships in November marked the last time the old set of rules was in place. But the NCAA stepped in and decided to add stipulations to the code of points for this season, hoping to allow collegiate programs to ease into some of the changes.

All that really did was create question marks regarding what the scoring expectations were going to be heading into the 2006 NCAA season.

“You know, everyone was kind of in the same boat,” Burns said. “The philosophy we all took was that good gymnastics is still going to be good gymnastics.”

The College Gymnastics Association worked with the National Gymnastics Judges Association to establish a modified version of the new open-ended system for the 2006 season.

The modified version establishes greater points deductions, and its effect is evident in the low scores Minnesota and other collegiate programs are putting up this season.

For instance, last weekend senior Justin Meyer competed in the all-around for the Gophers against Wisconsin’s club team and had a very solid performance. But he almost took a big point deduction on the pommel horse.

“I didn’t fall off on anything. I had a pretty big screw-up on horse, but I was able to stick with it,” Meyer said. “I got a lower score because of it, but it was a matter of staying tough and not falling off to lose more points.”

In the new code, the point deductions are based an the same scale – small, medium, large and a fall – as they were in the old code.

The old code saw a 0.1 deduction for a small mistake, 0.2 for a medium, 0.3 for a large and 0.5 for a fall. And although a small deduction is still just a tenth off, a medium mistake now draws 0.3 off the score, a large 0.5 and a fall 0.8.

“You know, any time you have sports rules change drastically like that, it gets uncomfortable,” Burns said. “It’s like basketball; the three-point shot is going to be worth three points from now until forever. Maybe it will be moved a foot further or a foot closer, but if you’re inside this line it’s two and outside it’s three. It’s pretty simple.”

And although the changes for scoring in gymnastics haven’t been as simple as some would have liked, it has leveled out the playing field.

Because now every team is doing the same thing in preparation for their routines, they are trying to decipher the code.

That’s made things more interesting for the ninth-ranked Gophers, who are looking to bring home an NCAA Championship for the first time in the 103-year history of the program.

But for now, the team is focused on breaking into the top eight in the country for the first time all season.

“We’re the underdog; we’re ninth-rated,” injured senior Joe Moore said. “But anything can happen, with this new code especially. So it’s all still up for grabs.”