Yet another new women’s gymnastics program! On Wednesday Simpson College announced it would be adding women’s and men’s college gymnastics in the fall of 2022, the second such announcement in the span of a couple months with Greenville College also adding the sport to its athletics lineup in August. We discuss our initial reactions, thoughts on the move and pose any questions we still have (and will try to answer in the coming weeks and months!).
What do you think about Simpson adding NCAA gym? Let us know in the comments or on social media!
What were your initial thoughts when you heard Simpson would be adding gymnastics?
Elizabeth: My very first thought was, “Oh, huh, another one?” That was mixed with relief that it seemed like Simpson’s announcement was much more legit than our previous ones. (No RiverBender.com breaking the news this time! And no, I will never forget that.)
Allison: I’m psyched! I love that more colleges are adding gymnastics, let alone a DIII program. They may not have as much flash as the bigger names, but there’s still so much heart.
Mary Emma: I was excited! I’ve never heard of Simpson, but any new NCAA program is great news. After not having any new programs since 2013, we’ve had LIU start this year and three more programs announced, so it’s an exciting time in the gymnastics world.
Carolyn: I was SHOCKED!!! As a proud Iowan, this is huge news for our state’s local gymnasts, as there are many successful clubs that have gymnasts who don’t want to go to Iowa or Iowa State but still want to compete in college. This would be a great opportunity for them no matter if it is a DIII school. And just for kicks, this is my mom’s alma mater’s rival, so it will be fun to tease her when the team has success.
Claire: Surprised but excited! DIII is severely underrated by a lot of college gym fans, so I’m hoping this new program will help spark broader interest.
Katie W: Honestly, I was really shocked about this, especially since Simpson is a smaller school. I’m not familiar with the college, but I’m always happy to see additions rather than subtractions to the sport.
What are you most excited about with the addition of Simpson gymnastics?
Elizabeth: More opportunities for worthy club gymnasts to compete in college is always good. Again, like I said with Greenville, I wish scholarships were a part of this deal, but I guess we can’t be too picky. At least the school didn’t add A&T instead. Plus, like always I’m excited to see the leos it comes up with.
Allison: Like Elizabeth said, I definitely wish scholarships were available, but I’m excited to have more variety in routines and routine construction that seems to pop up in smaller programs.
Mary Emma: Like Elizabeth said, more opportunities for gymnasts to compete in college. There is so much talent right now and having more programs—even if it’s “just” DIII—means that more gymnasts will be able to continue their gymnastics careers past high school.
Carolyn: I am most excited for how the recruiting will go. I competed against a lot of great clubs in Iowa, such as Chow’s, Triad, Success, Sapphire and Synergy, and I’m excited for those gymnasts to have an opportunity to compete in college, especially if they want a smaller campus and student population, which Simpson can provide for them.
Claire: As Carolyn said, there are a lot of fantastic clubs in Iowa and the Midwest and a lot of students who prefer a smaller college environment (I was definitely one of those students). Any added opportunities for gymnasts to compete collegiately is worth celebrating!
Katie W: The thing I loved about the announcement was the commitment to both women’s and men’s gymnastics. Although I gravitate towards watching WAG now, my first true foray into following the sport the sport came from watching the men’s competitions.
Greenville announced the addition of women’s and men’s gymnastics nearly a month ago. What are your thoughts on the potential trend of small DIII colleges adding the sport?
Elizabeth: We don’t yet know a ton of information, so I’m finding it hard to be too excited about things. However, I am excited for the prospects of a DIII school now in Iowa. We’re really filling out the Midwest, aren’t we? Here’s to hoping both Simpson and Greenville join the MIC.
Allison: I’m hoping that this means more attention will be given to DIII as it grows and more teams are added, or at least more livestreams and maybe some coverage. I can dream.
Mary Emma: With so many smaller colleges adding A&T, I know I’ve seen a lot of worry from gymnastics fans that NCAA gymnastics at the lower levels is on its way out. Both Simpson and Greenville adding gymnastics shows that might not be the case.
Carolyn: I absolutely love it. Anything to get more gymnastics and more possibilities for gymnasts to compete in college is what I am here for!
Claire: Two data points aren’t conclusive, but I hope this is the start of a trend, particularly for men’s gym.
Katie W: I love the opportunity this gives for more athletes to be able to continue their sport in college. The addition of DIII schools gives gymnasts who are not DI ready or prefer that environment a chance to continue their gymnastics careers and be able to make competition lineups.
How do you want or hope the conference alignment shakes out with these two new DIII teams?
Elizabeth: What I don’t want is for them to just join the WIAC and make a messy 10-team conference. My first choice would be for both to join the MIC and make that a healthier, heartier conference. My second choice would be for the five University of Wisconsin schools to stay in the WIAC, and Simpson, Greenville, Hamline, Gustavus Adolphus and Winona State to form a new conference. Then rework how teams qualify to NCGA nationals from there (maybe the top two make nationals from each conference or something or just say the top four or six in the final regular season rankings move on).
Mary Emma: I really hope both Greenville and Simpson join the MIC. Geographically, it wouldn’t be out of the question for either to join the WIAC as an affiliate, but the MIC just makes so much more sense. Plus it would mean that Centenary won’t be the odd one out as the only non-NCGA DIII team.
Carolyn: I think the WIAC conference has enough teams in it, so going along with what Elizabeth said, I would love it if a new conference was started to better organize the new teams and the already existing ones.
Claire: Given the various conference shake-ups we’ll be seeing over the next few years (e.g., ACC splitting off from the EAGL, the SEC and Big 12 madness), this is the perfect time to introduce a new conference!
Katie W: I have to agree with the others about potentially starting a new conference.
What questions do you still have about the addition of this program?
Elizabeth: I’ll state the obvious ones and let my editors be more creative: What conference will it be in, will it be building a gym or training at a local club, is there a local club, will it be a part of the NCGA or compete for NCAA titles?
Allison: For starters, I’m interested to see who will be moving to head the program as well as the staff that’ll be joining.
Mary Emma: Like I said above, I want to know what conference Simpson will be joining. I’m also very interested to see who they hire as head coach and what sorts of recruits they get.
Carolyn: I am interested to see who the head coach will be. I LOVE when former collegiate gymnasts come out of nowhere and land a volunteer assistant position (like Myia Hambrick) or even grab a head coaching position (like Jen Llewellyn) and it would be cool to see that trend continue.
Claire: Simpson will join Greenville and Springfield as the only DIII men’s teams. I’m curious to see how this affects some of the DI programs’ non-varsity teams.
Katie W: I’m interested in following the long term trend of DIII gymnastics teams and how it will alter the recruiting process for the entire sport. NCAA gymnastics is in for many changes over the coming years, so it will be interesting to see how recruiting adapts, where coaches land and how conferences are shaped.
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Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, Allison Freeman, Mary Emma Burton, Carolyn Lien, Claire Billman and Katie Walsh
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