1. Crowd involvement. Some schools have special cheering sections & awards for the most enthusiastic fans. For example, as reported in the April issue of International Gymnast Magazine, Georgia home meets feature the “Best Seat in the House,” where the rowdiest fans are called out of the audience to sit next to the Floor Exercise mat on a leather couch for the last rotation of the competition.
  2. The enthusiasm & emotion of the athletes. Unlike elite competitions where most of the athletes remain quite stoic, NCAA gymnastics showcases typical collegiate spirit. When the athletes stick a landing or hit an incredible routine, they typically jump up and down as they salute the judges and then proceed to sprint back to their teammates who are waiting on the sidelines to celebrate with high-fives, hugs, and raucous cheers.
  3. The floor routines. The choreography and crowd appeal of women’s NCAA floor routines is unsurpassed.
  4. The ease with which the audience can understand the scores. As I mentioned in a previous post, the crowd is not confused when a fantastic routine nets a 9.362, as is so often the case with elite competitions. During the 2004 Olympic Games, one blogger wrote this about gymnastics…
    I have absolutely no clue why some routines get high scores and others get so low, … Why can’t they just tell us why someone gets a 9.162 versus a 9.617?

  5. The artistry & beauty of the gymnastics. NCAA gymnastics emphasizes assurance, elegance, amplitude, and virtuosity instead of dificult dance combinations and ever-increasing difficulty at the expense of the aforementioned characteristics.
  6. Team loyalty. The focus of the athletes is not on themselves but on the team. All of the energy and excitement is reserved for the team rather than the individual, which is more appealing to the crowd.
  7. Stuck landings. Although I don’t know the statistics, there seem to be so many more stuck landings in the NCAAs. And as NBC commentator, Tim Daggett, likes to say, “Nothing puts an exclamation mark on a routine more than a stuck landing.”
  8. Most of the athletes are older. The general public is more likely to emotionally connect with older athletes, to identify with women rather than with little girls. Case in point: Mohini Bhardwaj, Annia Hatch.
  9. Fan base. The fan base & public following of a Division I school is astronomically higher than that of local gymnastics clubs.
  10. Television coverage. Though there are several things left to be desired with the NCAA telecasts, there is simply more of it. Many collegiate meets are aired locally and a major network typically covers the National Championships. Barring the Olympic Year, elite gymnastics competions usually get about 4 or 5 national air spots per year, usually about 1 hour in length.
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