Postseason Qualification, Rules & Awards


Officially, the NCAA postseason begins the day after the conference championships and includes regional and national competitions. However, there is information about conference championships below as well. There are three levels of postseason for collegiate gymnastics, NCAA, which is open to all varsity teams, USAG, which is open to schools with less than seven and a half full scholarships, and NCGA, which is open to all DIII teams with the exception of Centenary.

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Rankings

To start the season, rankings are based on team score average until approximately the eighth week of the 15-week season. After, rankings are determined by National Qualifying Score (NQS), formerly known as Regional Qualifying Score (RQS). NQS is determined by taking a team’s top six scores—where at least three must be from away meets—dropping the highest score and averaging the remaining five. This method allows teams to get rid of bad early season meets as well as accounts for “home scoring” discrepancies.

While all teams are ranked nationally by average and then NQS, NCGA rankings for the purpose of qualifying to nationals are determined differently, using SAS score, which takes the top four scores with at least one home and one away and no more than one from a DI/DII non-conference meet.

USAG uses NQS for its rankings, with the top eight ranked teams qualifying to the USA Gymnastics Collegiate National Championships.


Conference Meets

There are 13 conferences in collegiate gymnastics across the three divisions. The Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC are considered the “Big 4” conferences, similar to Power 5 conferences in football. The MIC is the only conference that has teams from all three divisions while the WIAC and NCGA-East are comprised solely of DIII teams and ECAC-II is comprised of teams from Division II. The remaining 10 conferences contain only DI squads.

Regular Season Champions

The concept of a regular season champion is relatively new to the sport of gymnastics and the way it is determined varies conference to conference. While some conferences like the SEC and Pac-12 use win-loss records to determine the champion—with head-to-head matchup results determining ties—other conferences use NQS.

Conference Championship Meets

In gymnastics, all teams in a conference qualify to compete at their conference championship meet with seeding typically determined by national ranking using NQS.

The Big Ten previously used its “Big Fives” meet to seed for the Big Ten Championship. However, in 2020 it switched to seeding by national ranking, such as all other conferences, with the top four teams qualifying to compete in the night session of the conference championship and the bottom six teams competing in the afternoon. The Big Fives meet is now only used to determine the second half of the regular season rankings and to determine the regular season conference champion.

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NCAA Postseason Qualification & Format

Team Qualification

The top 36 teams based on NQS qualify to regionals. The top 16 are seeded while No. 17-36 are placed geographically. The bottom eight teams compete in the first round and the top 28 essentially get a bye and automatically advance to round two.

For placement, teams ranked Nos. 1/8/9/16 are seeded into one regional, Nos. 2/7/10/15 are in another, Nos. 3/6/11/14 in the third and Nos. 4/5/12/13 in the final regional. If there are host conflicts based on how teams finish the regular season, “the lowest seeded host in the group will be exchanged with a non-host that holds a spot not greater or less than two seeded positions (and preferably one position) when possible,” according to NCAA postseason rules. However, in 2019, Oregon State had to be shifted three positions due to conflicts in the first two adjusted scenarios. Teams outside the top 16 are placed geographically where possible.

If a team declines its spot at regionals, the next-highest-ranked team based on NQS will be selected. Also, any of the 81 teams is eligible to qualify to compete at NCAA regionals. Many DII and DIII individuals have performed at the meet in the past and Lindenwood even qualified a full team in 2019.

Regionals is a three day competition. Day one features a dual meet between the two “play-in” teams with the winner advancing to compete in the second session on day two. In each day two session, the top two teams will advance to the regional final on day three where the top two teams from that quad meet advance to NCAA semifinals in two weeks’ time.

Once the eight nationals teams are determined, the top two teams from each semifinal qualify to the national final where four teams will compete for the title the following day.

Individual Qualification

Regionals

The top 12 all arounders and top 16 individual event specialists on each event, who are not on a top 28 qualifying team, make it to regionals. Individuals from teams competing in round one are included in the list of individual qualifiers in case their team doesn’t advance out of round one. No alternates are named for regionals or nationals for individual qualifiers. For the team that advances out of round one, its individuals’ spots will not be filled.

These individuals are placed at a regional competition geographically. To determine the session in which they compete, the NCAA outlined the following, confusing, parameters: “To ensure the top-seeded teams have the least number of individuals competing with them, the committee will pair the highest-ranked all-arounder at the site with the lowest-seeded team (or lowest NQS team at the site first, then proceed to the seeded teams), the next highest all-arounder with the next lowest-seeded team, etc. to ensure the top-seeded teams have the fewest number of individuals competing with them, which maintains integrity of the bracket and fairness for both teams and individuals.” Essentially, the top-ranked all arounder in a region will be paired with the “worst” team based on seeding and/or NQS.

Nationals

All individual competitors will compete and qualify for nationals out of the Friday round two sessions. Results will be combined over the two sessions to determine the top finisher not on a qualifying team in the all around and on each event. But keep in mind that taking out teams for the “not on a qualifying team” clause doesn’t just include the teams that make it to round three on Saturday. It also includes those teams that don’t qualify out of that Saturday session, so individual qualifiers won’t be known until after all competition at a regional concludes Saturday night.

Here’s an example:

Say the combined top five on bars from Friday’s meets at the Athens regional are 1. Maggie Nichols (OU), 2. Marissa Oakley (UGA), 3. Emi Watterson (Cal), 4. Mei Li Costa (Brown) and 5. Mollie Korth (UK). Georgia and Kentucky, and Oklahoma and California qualify out of their respective sessions to Saturday’s competition. The individual will then have to wait to see which of those four teams qualify for nationals to determine which names to take out of these individual standings.

In this example, Oklahoma and Georgia advance as full teams, meaning you would take out all Oklahoma and Georgia gymnasts in Friday’s combined individual event and all around standings, meaning Emi Watterson (Cal) would earn a trip to nationals on bars.

The bottom line:

Combine event and all around results for the two Friday sessions, wait until competition concludes Saturday and scratch through every name of a gymnast from a team going to nationals. The top individual on each event and in the all around advances.

This results in four all arounders and four individuals on each event qualifying to compete at the national championships.

At nationals, all individuals will compete on Friday in one of the two semifinal sessions. All around and event results from each session will be combined to determine individual champions and All-Americans.

No alternates will be named for regionals for individual qualifiers. No alternates will be named for the national championships.

Format

In its simplest form, the format is as so:

  • The top 36 teams make regionals.
  • There are four regional hosts with nine teams at each.
  • Two teams compete in round one on Thursday while the remaining seven get a round-one bye and automatically advance to round two. The higher-ranked team will compete in Olympic order—vault, bars, beam, floor.
  • Round two on Friday is two sessions, the first with four teams and the second with three plus the winner of round one.
  • The top two teams from each session advance to round three.
  • Round three on Saturday is one session with four teams.
  • The top two teams advance to the national semifinals (Friday, two weeks after regional competition).
  • Qualifiers from two regionals feed into semifinal one at nationals while the other semifinal features qualifiers from the other two regionals.
  • The top two teams from each semifinal qualify to finals.
  • The final (Saturday, one day following national semifinals) features four teams where the winner is crowned the national champion.

Seeding for rounds two and three of regionals and all nationals competitions will be based on a predetermined draw.

Tie-Break Procedures

Round One

If the two round one teams tie at the end of the competition, it will be broken by counting all six scores per event. If a tie still exists, the top and bottom scores for each event are thrown out and the remaining four are added to get a full team score.

Round Two

Team ties during round two will be broken the same way as in round one (see above).

Any ties in the all around are broken by looking at the highest single event score, then the next highest and so forth until the tie is broken. If there is still a tie, all four judges’ scores will be counted and averaged for all four events.

For individual event ties, all four judges’ scores will be counted and averaged. If a tie still exists, the head judge score will be the tie breaker. If a tie still exists, the individual with the higher NQS will advance.

Round Three

Team ties during round three will be broken the same way as in round one and two (see above).

National Semifinals

Team ties during the national semifinals will be broken the same way as in round one, two and three (see above). Individual ties will not be broken.

National Final

Team ties will not be broken.

Religious Accommodations

It is suspected that there is no competition on Sunday so that, if it advances, BYU would be able to compete since it observes Sabbath on Sundays. This is backed up by the following, based on bylaws 31.1.4.1 and 31.1.4.2 in the NCAA Division I Manual: “If a participating institution has a written policy against competition on a particular day for religious reasons, it shall inform the NCAA national office on or before Sept. 1 of each academic year in order for it or one of its student-athletes to be excused from competing on that day. The championship schedule shall be adjusted to accommodate that institution.”

Live Scoring & Video

“The NCAA encourages all hosting institutions to provide live statistics/webcasting capabilities through NCAA.com. The host sports information director will be contacted by NCAA.com personnel to verify connections and feeds prior to each round to be hosted. A host planning to do either live stats or webcasting must show all rotations, not just those involving the host team. Note: The NCAA strongly encourages hosts that webcast during the regular season to webcast regionals hosted at the site.”

Head Count

Teams are allowed 15 athletes and five non-athletes to travel (to receive per diem reimbursements) and be on the competition floor. Programs that qualify one to three individuals are allowed two non-athletes and teams with four to six individuals are allowed three non-athletes. “Any changes to the 15 student-athlete roster must be made before 10 p.m. Eastern time the day before competition.”

A total of 24 individuals are allowed in the team corral at nationals. This includes the 15 competing gymnasts, coaches, team managers, videographers, etc.

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USAG Postseason Qualification & Format

Team Qualification

Teams eligible to compete at USAG nationals are those that offer less than seven and a half full scholarships, which includes all DII and DIII squads not in the NCGA, as well as Ivy League schools and service academies—plus, a handful of DI quads with incomplete scholarship funding.

The top eight teams in the national rankings, based on NQS will qualify to the USAG national championships and seeding is determined by rank. Once qualified, four teams compete in each semifinal on the first day of competition with Nos. 1/4/5/8 competing in one semifinal and Nos. 2/3/6/7 competing in the other. Typically, if the home team qualifies a full squad to the event, its semifinal will be held in the evening with the other in the afternoon. If the host did not qualify a full team, the No. 1 team is given the evening session.

At the USAG semifinals, the top two teams from each session qualify to the following day’s team final where four teams will compete for the title and seeding based on semifinal qualifying score (the team with the highest score in the semifinal will get to rotate in Olympic order).

Individual Qualification

Information on how individuals to USAG nationals is hard to come by, but we can deduce from past qualifiers that the top six all arounders not on a qualifying team and top 10 on each event not on a qualifying team or in the all around make nationals.

USAG nationals is the only remaining women’s championship to hold event finals, with qualifying individuals competing on the third and final day of competition to determine national champions on the four events. While the all around champion is determined after Friday’s semifinals competition, the top five gymnasts plus ties from each session—limit to three per school—qualify for event finals.

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NCGA Postseason Qualification & Format

NCGA nationals qualification is determined by the results of two regional competitions. The NCGA-East is comprised of Brockport State, Cortland State, Ithaca College, Rhode Island College, Springfield College and Ursinus College. The WIAC/NCGA-West includes Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stout, UW-Whitewater and Winona State. These regionals competitions also serve as the respective conference championships.

At each regional meet, all teams compete and the top three squads after the conclusion of each the competitions qualify to the NCGA national championships, which is a one day competition that features the team final, all around final and individual event finals. Individual qualifiers to nationals are also determined after regional competition.

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Judging

For regionals, four judges will judge each event during the competition with the highest and lowest scores thrown out and the middle two averaged for the final score. One alternate judge with a minimum level 10 rating will be selected and assigned by the Women’s Gymnastics Committee for each regional.

For nationals, six judges will judge each event. The highest and lowest score will be dropped and the four scores in the middle will be averaged. One alternate judge with a minimum level 10 rating will be selected and assigned by the Women’s Gymnastics Committee for the nationals.

The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Committee will select all judges (26 judges, a meet referee and an alternate). The NCAA national office will provide the list of judges assigned to the championships. If possible, obtain the volunteer services of six local judges (level 9 rating or above preferred) to serve as timers and line judges.

Two line judges are required for floor exercise for regional and national competitions.

Judges Selection

Regionals

  • The meet referee will be selected first and be based on experience, recommendations from coaches and regional chairs and approval by the committee. The referee can’t serve more than two consecutive years. One of the panel judges will be named alternate.
  • 15 judges from each region are selected based on experience and recommendations from the coaches.
  • Six judges, one from each region, will be assigned to each regional site.
  • All remaining judges are selected and assigned geographically with efforts not to assign more than two judges from the same state to the same regional.
  • California will be divided into two regions, north and south, with two judges from each able to be assigned to a regional—but no more than three from the state as a whole can be assigned to one regional.
  • Alternates are selected from the remaining judges in the pool with priority going to the most qualified judges.

Nationals

  • Judges must judge at regionals to be eligible to judge at nationals.
  • The nationals meet referee will rotate regionals with each serving a two-year term. The meet referee and alternate cannot be from the same region where nationals is held.
  • Chief judges: The remaining meet referees from the various regionals will judge at nationals with selection based on experience and input from coaches.
  • Panel judges: The remaining panel judges will be selected from the four regionals with selection based on experience and input from coaches.
  • A local alternate will be identified for each region.
  • Every attempt will be made to select only one judge per state (excluding California and the meet referee).
  • Six judges (rated level 9 or above) will serve as timers (four) and line judges (two).

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Awards

All-Americans

WCGA Regular Season All-Americans

After the conclusion of the regular season, which includes conference meets but ends before regionals, regular season All-Americans are determined using NQS rankings. The honor is determined by taking the top eight on each event and the all around for the First Team and Nos. 9-16, with ties, for the Second Team.

WCGA DIII Regular Season All-Americans

Starting in 2020, the WCGA awarded separate regular season All-American honors to DIII gymnasts. First-team honors are given to the top finisher, plus ties, for all four events plus the all around across the NCGA East, NCGA West and Centenary. Second-Team All-Americans are second place finishers, plus ties, for all four events plus the all around.

NCAA All-Americans

All-American status is determined by taking the top four, with ties, on each event and the all around from each session at the NCAA national championships for the first team and Nos. 5-8 for the second team.

USAG All-Americans

Any gymnast who makes event finals at USAG nationals, including those who qualify but do not compete, are named First-Team All-Americans, as well as those finishing in the top eight in the all around standings. Second-Team All-Americans are determined by taking the event final alternates, as well as those that finish ninth and 10th in the all around.

NCGA Regular Season All-Americans

The top eight in the all around and individual events based on SAS rankings earn All-America honors, including four from the NCGA East and four from the WIAC/NCGA West, including ties.

NCGA All-Americans

All-American honors are given to the top eight podium finishers at the NCGA national championships.

Academic/Scholastic All-Americans

WCGA Scholastic All-Americans

WCGA Scholastic All-American honors are awarded to individuals with a GPA of 3.50 or higher.

CoSIDA Academic All-Americans

The Academic All-District team is selected by members of CoSIDA, the College Sports Information Directors of America. To be nominated, a student-athlete must be a starter or important reserve with at least a 3.30 cumulative grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) at their current institution. In the at-large category, only four men and four women from the eligible sports can be nominated per school.

Click here for a breakdown of the districts.

Elite 90

The Elite 90 award goes to the student-athlete who has the highest cumulative grade-point average of all student-athletes on all teams competing at the NCAA national championships. Each qualifying team has the opportunity to nominate one gymnast.

All-Conference

These honors are given based on criteria determined by each conference. However, most follow the same general guidelines. In the SEC, for example, to earn All-SEC recognition, gymnasts must finish in the top two spots (including ties) per event in each SEC championship session. The All-Freshman Team is made up of the freshmen student-athlete with the top score (including ties) on each event in both sessions and the top two all-around scores by a freshman in each session.

In 2020 because of the pandemic, the All-SEC and SEC All-Freshman teams were decided by taking the respective top two final NQS standings (including ties) on each event of the projected first and second sessions of the SEC Championship, as seeded by the final team NQS.

Postseason Awards

Honda Award

The Honda Sports Award acknowledges athletic and academic achievement, as well as community involvement for the 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports, including gymnastics. Each Honda Award winner is recognized as the top collegiate female athlete in her sport, and each of the 12 move on as nominees for the Honda Cup each year. The gymnastics award is selected by the United States Elite Coaches Association.

AAI Award

Often called the Heisman Trophy of women’s gymnastics, the AAI Award is given to an outstanding senior gymnast as nominated and voted for by the sport’s head coaches. After initial nominations are announced, the field is then narrowed to the top six where the award is presented at the NCAA national championships banquet. There is no limit to the number of nominees, as 2019 saw 25 initial nominees while 2020 saw 33.

Freshman, Gymnast and Coach of the Year

While conferences typically award Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, Gymnast of the Year and Coach of the Year awards—as well as sometimes Event Specialist of the Year—the NCAA only recognizes coach and assistant coaches at the national championships.

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Regions

  • Region 1 (Central): Alabama, Auburn, Ball State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan State, Ohio State, Western Michigan, Centenary
  • Region 2 (North Central): BYU, Denver, Iowa, Iowa State, Minnesota, Southern Utah, Air Force, Utah, Utah State, Gustavus Adolphus, Hamline, Winona State, UW-Eau Claire, UW-La Crosse, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stout, UW-Whitewater
  • Region 3 (Northeast): Brown, Cornell, LIU, Michigan, New Hampshire, Penn, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Temple, Yale, Bridgeport, Southern Connecticut, West Chester, Brockport, Cortland, Ithaca, Rhode Island, Springfield, Ursinus
  • Region 4 (South Central): Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Illinois State, Illinois, UIC, Missouri, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Oklahoma, SEMO, Lindenwood, Texas Woman’s
  • Region 5 (Southeast): Florida, George Washington, Georgia, Maryland, N.C. State, UNC, Towson, West Virginia, William & Mary
  • Region 6 (West): Alaska, Boise State, Sac State, California, UC Davis, UCLA, Oregon State, San Jose State, Stanford, Washington

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