Universities have been cutting men’s gymnastics from collegiate athletics as a result of the economic difficulties stemming from COVID-19. Schools including University of Minnesota, University of Iowa, and the College of William and Mary have decided to end their programs, and unfortunately more may follow.
The fallout from the pandemic is just the latest of many reasons why men’s gymnastics’ programs are being cut since the sport has been steadily shrinking at the collegiate level for many years. 60 years ago, there were more than 200 NCAA men’s programs. Only 11 Division 1 men’s gymnastics programs will likely remain by 2022. If that happens, it will be considered the smallest NCAA sport.
Even with the shrinking college field, gymnastics is a must-see event at the Summer Olympics with at least one American male gymnast medaling in eight of the past ten global competitions.
That may change. Training to be an olympian is a year-round task. For the majority of men’s gymnasts, a majority of training is done with a college gymnastics team. Unlike female gymnasts who begin their Olympic careers as early as high school, male gymnasts are usually in their twenties before they reach their olympic potential. Those entrenched in gymnastics programs across the USA feel that the United States men’s team is now at risk of losing momentum. This concern hasn’t changed the disheartening trend of men’s programs being cut either.
One key character trait of gymnasts, both male and female, is determination, so don’t expect these programs to give up. With football back in action across many campuses, the revenue generated is helping to keep other programs active -- and funded. Athletes have been rallying to get social media attention, and there have been proposals from some clubs for self-sustaining NCAA programs that aren’t reliant on the budgets from athletic departments, though it has yet to result in substantial change.
Eventually the pandemic will end and daily life will return to a more normal pace. When it does, hopefully men’s gymnastics programs across Division 1 and beyond will return, even stronger than before.
For more information on men’s gymnastics at the collegiate level or to find out how to help, visit collegegym.org.