What’s in store for the future of Gophers men’s gymnastics

Gophers coach Mike Burns will create a competitive Minnesota collegiate program through GymACT.

Head+Coach+Mike+Burns%2C+left+sits+with+incoming+freshmen+Donte+McKinney%2C+middle+and+Crew+Bold+during+practice+at+Cooke+Hall+on+Tuesday%2C+July+16.

Tony Saunders

Head Coach Mike Burns, left sits with incoming freshmen Donte McKinney, middle and Crew Bold during practice at Cooke Hall on Tuesday, July 16.

Michael Lyne

Gophers gymnastics head coach Mike Burns has plans to create a competitive University of Minnesota collegiate program through the Gymnastics Association of College Teams (GymACT) beginning in the 2021-22 season.

GymACT is an organization dedicated to creating, growing and maintaining men’s collegiate gymnastics programs.

Burns’ decision to transform the University’s NCAA program to a club program comes months after athletics director Mark Coyle announced his plans to cut the Gophers men’s gymnastics team last fall.

“There is a place for us to be,” Burns said. “I want to continue to provide opportunities for gymnasts who want to be here at the University of Minnesota. We won’t be affiliated with athletics, but we’ll still be able to provide opportunities for kids who want to continue what they love doing.”

The transitional process has not been exactly easy for Burns: He needs to find a facility where the team could hold practices.

Burns is currently working with the University’s Recreation and Wellness Center (RecWell) departments and hopes they will allow him and his team to continue using the Cooke Hall gym, which they have been using for their NCAA program.

“The key was: let’s see if we can keep this gym operational,” Burns said. “[The RecWell] feel[s] pretty confident that that’s a doable thing.”

However, the use of the Cooke Hall gym also brings another barrier for Burns in this transitional phase. The University owns all of the gymnastics equipment, not the RecWell.

“I’m in the process of figuring out a way to maintain what we have from a facility standpoint,” Burns said. “To keep our program alive and well.”

Burns is also in the process of looking into fundraising opportunities to raise money so they can use Cooke Hall Gym.
The Gophers completed their historic 118-year era as a program earlier this year by hosting and finishing in fifth place at the NCAA Championships. Although the Gophers men’s gymnasts will no longer be NCAA athletes, the University is honoring all of the scholarship recipients in the program for the remainder of their college careers.

Burns was glad the University decided to do this in what he has felt has been many wrongs surrounding this one right.

Currently, Burns has a few commitments from some of his gymnasts to the club gymnastics program. He also plans to reach out to more eligible athletes from the team to see if they are interested in this route. Many are considering their futures and weighing their options.

“There’s some sense of abandonment that people are dealing with,” Burns said. “I would hope that we can get past that, move into a new existence, and one that’s free of some shackles.”

With only 12 NCAA men’s gymnastics programs left, it is difficult to transfer to another program. With the cut of the program, Burns noted it has only made the process of finding a new team that much more difficult.

“A lot of these guys have been looking to find a place to transfer, but because of the timing of it all, it’s been a real challenge in terms of finding a place that has roster spots and maybe scholarship dollars,” Burns said. “The timing of the decision in early October was really poorly thought out.”

One of the Gophers’ gymnasts, Donte McKinney, was fortunate enough to earn a roster spot next year at the University of Nebraska, and he announced the commitment on Instagram in November.

While the future is still uncertain, one thing still is sure for three Gophers athletes this summer. Shane Wiskus, Mike Moran and Crew Bold will compete in the upcoming U.S. National Gymnastics Championships in June.