Alyssa Baumann Florida

6 Thoughts About the New SEC Championship Format for 2025

On Tuesday, the SEC announced changes to the gymnastics conference championship format, starting in 2025 when Oklahoma officially joins from the Big 12. Among the changes includes a new two-day format, where day one will feature two semifinal competitions between the bottom eight teams from the regular season. The No. 1 seed will get a day one bye and will be joined by the winning teams from each semifinal, as well as the next highest scoring team from both sessions combined.

While the news is exciting for gymnastics fans, it does still raise a lot of questions. We dive into some of them below.

Finally! An SEC Gymnastics “Tournament”

When Oklahoma announced it would be joining the SEC, we were obviously excited. But that excitement quickly morphed into hundreds of questions about all the logistics. Would we have to suffer through a session with five teams and a bye? Would the league decide to do three sessions? Would there only be one session with just the top four teams?

With the announcement of this new format, we were pleasantly surprised! Not often do changes in NCAA gym make us happy because they actually…make sense? We love everything about this, from the tournament-style competition to the No. 1 seed being able to earn a bye. Plus, this makes it easier for more teams to join the SEC should they want to (cough Texas cough Tennessee cough Vanderbilt cough) because it’s easy to add more sessions or more byes to accommodate them rather than have massive finals sessions like the Big Ten has had to do in recent years.

An Extra Opportunity for NQS

For eight of the nine teams, this will provide one more away score that can be factored into NQS and help the teams’ postseason aspirations. But that also leaves some questions. Will the No. 1 seed be OK with only having one opportunity for NQS? Will some decision be made about how only one meet from the championship can be counted toward NQS?

We think it can all be settled with a little planning. For the most part, every team in the country has the freedom to schedule whatever meets they want during the regular season. If they think it’s unfair that SEC teams get an extra NQS opportunity during Week 11, they can schedule an extra away meet from Weeks 1 to 10. We’ll be interested to see how this aspect plays out.

Nine Weeks of Head-to-Head Action

The Big Ten doesn’t do a lot of things right, but we do appreciate how it wraps up conference play mid-way through the season to allow for teams to have a few weeks of non-conference action before the postseason arrives. It allows for fun matchups and exciting out-of-conference competitions for fans and gymnasts alike.

However, with the SEC now needing to accommodate eight weeks of duals leaves just two weeks open in the regular season for non-conference competition. We assume one will be taken up by teams’ senior nights Week 10, and the other will come during the first week of the season. Anything else will have to be scheduled around the SEC calendar with double headers or multi-team competitions. Maybe it would make more sense to hold a handful of SEC tris or quads to allow teams to get the most bang for their buck while also still having an opportunity to compete against non-conference opponents where desired.

What About Individual Champions?

This new format makes awarding individual champions a bit tricky because the No. 1 seed does not compete on day one, and obviously the teams that don’t advance to the final won’t compete on day two.

Do you scrap individual champions altogether (very unlikely, especially for a sport that likes to recognize as many gymnasts and teams as possible every step of the way)? Maybe you combine the day one and day two results and take the highest score for gymnasts that compete twice, or count scores from gymnasts on teams seeded second through eighth from day one and the No. 1 seed’s day two scores. Or maybe it’s done completely by NQS, putting more weight on regular season performance. No matter what is decided, it’s a tricky matter, and we can’t see a single most ideal option right now.

Let’s Talk Logistics

Two days of competitions means more gymnastics, which is automatically a win. But it does bring up a lot of logistical questions. Will the days of competition be back to back? Will there be a rest day like regionals? Will it start on Thursday, Friday, run from Saturday to Sunday? The NCAA rulebook states that all scores that will be factored into a team’s NQS should be submitted and confirmed by Sunday, March 19 at 12 p.m. ET. That’s why we don’t currently see conference championship competition on Sundays. Of course, this rule could change, or the SEC could determine that it wants to have the final on Sunday but that the scores won’t count toward NQS, but both situations are unlikely, especially the latter.

We think it makes the most logistical sense to do back-to-back days of competition on Friday and Saturday. Of course, there’s the case for rest, but rest in between competition days is only a recent change in the postseason—and play-in teams still have to compete two days in a row. Plus, teams not only have at least a week and a half if not two weeks of rest after the conference championships conclude before regionals get underway, but they can also plan for this schedule in advance, scheduling a bye Week 10 or scheduling their Week 10 meet on Thursday or Friday to optimize rest and recovery.

Does the Regular Season…Matter Now?

While regular season wins and losses still may not matter in the grand scheme of things, this format does add even more pressure to putting up the best scores each week for the purposes of NQS and earning that coveted day one bye.

Plus, we’re unsure of how the rest of the seeding will be laid out for each semifinal session, but if it’s the standard 1/4/5/8 and 2/3/6/7 format, claiming as high of seed as possible to increase the chances of competing in the final will be every team’s goal.

READ THIS NEXT: CGN Roundtable: On Oklahoma and the SEC

Article by Elizabeth Grimsley, 

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