A Mainstream Sports Fan’s Guide to Choosing Which Gymnastics Team to Support

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that sports are more fun when you have a team to root for (or against, as the case may be). We can’t tell all new college gymnastics fans who to support, but we can take some of the guesswork out of the equation for you.

Scroll down (or “control+F” if you’re tech savvy), find your favorite sports franchise, and find out which college gymnastics teams share the same vibe to know who to support during the 2024 season and beyond.

All-Time Greats

These storied programs are synonymous with the sport. Their recent records are immaterial—they started the conversation, so they’ll always be in the conversation. 

Yankees, Red Sox, Giants Lakers, Celtics, Warriors Cowboys, Packers, Steelers
North Carolina, Duke, UCLA Alabama, Ohio State, USC 
  • Alabama: Famed head coach Sarah Patterson not only led the Crimson Tide to six national titles during her 36-year tenure, she also helped put the sport as a whole on the map as an early Title IX advocate and marketing pioneer. Though the team hasn’t topped the podium since Patterson’s farewell season in 2012, it’s still consistently one of the top 10 programs in college gymnastics.   
  • Georgia: The winningest program in NCAA history. The incomparable Suzanne Yoculan led the Gymdogs to 10 national titles between 1987 and her retirement in 2009. True, the program has been in something of a rankings freefall ever since, but it’s still drawing big crowds and top-rated recruits to Athens. 
  • UCLA: The seven-time national champion is known for its viral floor routines and larger-than-life personalities. Under the leadership of Valorie Kondos Field (a.k.a “Miss Val”), the Bruins signed some of the biggest names in the sport, including Katelyn Ohashi, Jordan Chiles, and even Simone Biles. By all accounts, second-year head coach Janelle McDonald is rebuilding the brand after a turbulent few years. 
  • Utah: Nine-time national champion Utah won the first-ever NCAA title back in 1982 and hasn’t missed the championship since. The Red Rocks haven’t won it all since 1995, but they’ve never placed lower than 10th either and regularly finish in the top three. All eyes will be on the Utes in 2024 to see if newly appointed head coach Carly Dockendorf can steady the ship in the wake of a tumultuous preseason


“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” A legacy is all well and good, but these are the current teams to beat.

Dodgers, Astros, Rays Warriors, Nuggets, Bucks Chiefs, 49ers, Eagles 
Villanova, UConn, Gonzaga Georgia, Michigan, LSU
  • Oklahoma: KJ Kindler and the Sooners have already joined the ranks of the all-time greats and show no signs of letting up any time soon. They closed out the 2023 season with their second consecutive national title, their sixth in nine years. In fact, Oklahoma has only finished off the final podium once since 2010. 
  • Florida: The Gators (under then-head coach Rhonda Faehn) were the first team to capitalize on the opportunity in the post-Sarah and Suzanne era by winning three consecutive national titles. Current head coach Jenny Rowland has kept Florida in the title conversation—not to mention coaching Trinity Thomas to NCAA GOAT status—since assuming leadership in 2016, but has yet to see the team reclaim the top spot. 
  • LSU: Arguably the strongest program to have never won an NCAA title, the Tigers have been runners-up three times since 2016 and are always in the postseason hunt (well, almost always…). Even without a national championship win to its name, LSU has tremendous fan support: It’s been setting college gymnastics attendance records since Livvy Dunne was in elementary school.
  • Michigan: The Wolverines have always been the face of Big Ten gymnastics, winning 27 conference championships since 1982. They also have the distinction of winning the Big Ten’s only NCAA title in 2021, still standing as the youngest member of the exclusive NCAA champions club.

Faded Glory 

Like the aforementioned Georgia Gymdogs, these teams seem to have fallen on hard times in recent years… Maybe they’re just biding their time? 

  Athletics, Giants, Yankees Magic, Bulls, Spurs  Steelers, Patriots, Bears
Kentucky, Indiana, Florida Florida, Tennessee, Nebraska
  • Iowa State: Before KJ Kindler began building her dynasty in Norman, she led her alma mater to a Super Six final and residency inside the top 20—somewhere the Cyclones haven’t seen since her departure. After hitting an all-time low of No. 44 in 2023, the university hired former NCAA champion Ashley Miles Greig as the team’s new head coach despite her lack of any prior coaching experience (yes, you read that right). All eyes will be fixed on the Cyclones in 2024 to see whether or not that gamble pays off.
  • Nebraska: After collecting 23 conference titles and qualifying to nationals 27 times, the Huskers quickly fell from title contention after the abrupt mid-season retirement of longtime head coach Dan Kendig in 2018 due to NCAA violations. Nebraska snuck back into the postseason in 2023 after falling short two years in a row and has a roster capable of continuing that ascent in 2024. While Husker football is still in dismay, the immediate future is bright gymnastics-wise.
  • Penn State: When Sarah Shire Brown assumed head coaching duties in 2017, she was tasked with rehabilitating the team’s culture—as well as its record—following a full-on mutiny against former coaches Jeff and Rachelle Thompson. Though the Nittany Lions have yet to claw their way back into the top 10, they are on the upswing and, most importantly, seem far healthier and happier. 
  • Stanford: Once a staple of the top 10, the Cardinal has struggled to crack the top 25 since former head coach Kristen Smyth stepped down following a few bad seasons. Stanford has yet to fully recover under the leadership of famed alumna Tabitha Yim, but a recent surge in both recruiting and the rankings seems to indicate that things are getting back on track.

Haters Gonna Hate

Whether it’s because of cheating (real or imagined), scandals, athlete faux pas, annoying fan bases, or just good old-fashioned jealousy, you can justify disliking just about any team if you really put your mind to it! Every story needs a villain, and these are a few of the programs gym fans love to hate. 

Astros, Yankees   Heat, Pistons, Lebron’s current team Patriots, Cowboys, Jets 
Duke, North Carolina Notre Dame, Alabama, USC
  • LIU: There’s been a suspiciously high incidence of turnover in the program’s four-year history: 11 retirements, nine transfers, three former coaches, and a partridge in a pear tree. That would be reason enough to warrant the side-eye, but the sheer volume of shady social media posts by former Sharks have left even the most charitable gym fans questioning the program’s leadership.
  • LSU: The Tigers have courted their fair share of controversy and criticism in recent years, but they’ve also taken heat over everything from being too heavily spray-tanned to having too much NIL success.
  • Oklahoma: Some OU antis claim it’s the gymnasts or the leos or the choreography or the two-pass floor routines that fuel their disdain. Others admit they’re just tired of seeing the Sooners win all the damn time. (See also: Florida)
  • Utah: After a few years of reprieve, the Red Rocks are back on the list after the university’s anemic response to accusations of abuse lodged against then-head coach Tom Farden left more than one gym fan with a sour taste in their mouth. Past and present team members arguing with fans on social media certainly didn’t help smooth things over.

Scrappy Underdogs

You just can’t help but root for some teams even when the odds are stacked against them (which they usually are). 

Blue Jays, Phillies, Cubs Kings, Pacers, Thunder Cardinals, Bills, Colts
Northwestern, Dayton, Wofford Tulane, Arizona, Kansas State
  • Alaska: After their program was cut in 2020 following unprecedented budget cuts by Alaskan governor Mike Dunleavy, the Seawolves crowdfunded the $800,000 required to have their program reinstated. It doesn’t get any scrappier than that!   
  • Iowa: After getting hosed in the 2021 postseason, the Hawkeyes came back with a vengeance in 2022 with a huge upset at regionals over No. 6 LSU to make the Sweet 16. Iowa City is home to many fan-favorite gymnasts and bubbly head coach Larissa Libby, making the Hawkeyes easy to root for.
  • Lindenwood: Despite achieving remarkable success in their 10-year history, the Lions find themselves in the same position as the Seawolves were a few years ago. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a viable path to salvation (save an angel investor willing to write a $2.5 million check), so the team—and the college gym community as a whole—are gunning to make this season one to remember. 
  • Washington: This was a program in flux during the late 2010s and early 2020s, as evidenced by its 34-position swing in the national rankings under three head coaches. Former Lindenwood head coach Jen Llewellyn assumed leadership of the Huskies in 2022 and seems to have helped the team regain some of its shine: In 2023, they upset No. 12 Auburn to qualify for their first regional final in five years.  

On the Move 

Already known for making postseason waves, these are the teams most likely to break into their first Final Four in 2024. 

Twins, Orioles, Diamondbacks Pacers, Suns, Timberwolves Jaguars, Lions, Bills
Purdue, Creighton Penn State, Missouri
  • California: The Golden Bears were this close to making the national final last season and are projected to boast more depth and an even higher ceiling this year after adding two former five-star recruits to the roster. Not too shabby for a program that the university tried to cut only a little over a decade ago.
  • Kentucky: After winding up on the wrong side of the championship bubble for years, the Wildcats finally cracked the Elite Eight in 2023. With an outstanding freshman class plus the return of All-American Raena Worley and fan favorite Arianna Patterson, they have more than enough star power on the current roster to build on last year’s success. 
  • Michigan State: The Spartans’ recruiting has been red hot the last few seasons, as they’ve used a succession of former five-star recruits to skyrocket from “barely making regionals” to “Big Ten title threat.” The team narrowly missed qualifying for the championships last year, and—thanks to minimal roster turnover plus the fifth-ranked freshman class in the country—this may very well be the season it finally breaks through.
  • Ohio State: Recruiting has also been kind to the Buckeyes, establishing them as an early favorite for a postseason seed. Former five-star recruit Payton Harris returns for her sophomore season with individual nationals experience that could help propel Ohio State to Fort Worth as a team.

Sleeper Picks

If you like a good upset, then these teams will be right up your alley! Underestimate them at your peril—just ask their opponents. 

Mariners, Phillies, Brewers Kings, Pacers, Spurs  Broncos, Saints, Vikings
Loyola, FAU, Butler App State, North Carolina, Ole Miss
  • Denver: Despite landing in the top 15 for nearly a decade—including a fourth-place finish in 2019—the Pioneers still always seem to slide under the radar come postseason. Just last season Denver won its home regional in a spectacular upset to make the Elite Eight over Michigan, yet most experts have the Pioneers on the wrong side of the 2024 NCAA championships bubble.
  • Missouri: No team exemplifies “numbers don’t tell the whole story” more than the Tigers: They finished a program best fifth in 2022 and—despite finishing the year ranked 14th—narrowly missed a return trip to nationals in 2023. With the bulk of last season’s roster returning along with key newcomers, Mizzou is poised to have yet another record-breaking season   
  • Southern Utah: With five top-25 finishes since 2015, the Flippin’ Birds are a perennial sleeper pick, always finding a way to stay relevant. A top-15 freshman class should help do the trick this season.
  • Western Michigan: The Broncos are the mid-major program to watch in 2024 after a legit 27th-place finish last year. Fifth-year Payton Murphy has grown from an underdog fantasy gymnastics draft pick to a must-have and has Western Michigan poised to make a splash in the regular season and a run in March.

Best Rivalries

Just because win-loss records don’t affect rankings doesn’t mean gymnastics is all sunshine and rainbows. Every sport has its classic rivalries, and college gymnastics is no exception. 

Red Sox and Yankees, Dodgers and Giants, White Sox and Cubs Knicks and Nets, Bulls and Pistons, Lakers and Celtics Cowboys and 49ers, Pats and Jets, Steelers and Ravens
Duke and UNC, Indiana and Purdue, Kansas and Kansas State Army and Navy, USC and Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State, Clemson and Carolina
  • Alabama and Georgia: Yes, in gymnastics, too! For nearly three decades, SEC gymnastics was dominated by two of the sport’s most powerful women: Georgia head coach Suzanne Yoculan and Alabama head coach Sarah Patterson. So heated was this conference rivalry that ESPN made a documentary about it. It’s no secret that both programs have been in decline since the pair’s respective retirements (Yoculan in 2009 and Patterson in 2012). However, given the scorching recruiting we’ve seen over the last couple of years from current head coaches—and former competitors—Courtney Kupets Carter (Georgia) and Ashley Priess Johnston (Alabama), we’re hoping this rivalry is about to reignite.
  • Florida and LSU: The post-Sarah and Suzanne SEC has been dominated by the Gators and Tigers, as they’ve been swapping conference titles for the better part of a decade (less an Alabama upset or two). This rivalry is shaping up to be even fiercer than usual following former Florida standout Savannah Schoenherr’s unexpected transfer to LSU over the summer. 
  • Utah and UCLA: One of the annual matchups gymnastics fans are begging to continue despite the teams departing for different conferences next season. These two have led the Pac-12 since the Utes joined a decade ago, with most of their matchups coming down to the wire. While we certainly hope this rivalry survives the end of the Pac-12, be sure to enjoy this potential series finale in 2024. 

Bracket Busters

You never know which version of these teams will show up during the postseason, but you can always count on them to bring the drama.

Mariners, Diamondbacks, Rays Heat, Raptors, Mavericks Titans, Chargers, Seahawks
Saint Peter’s, Nevada, Memphis Boise State, UCF, Oklahoma State
  • Auburn: The Tigers followed up their historic fourth-place finish at the 2022 NCAA championships by flaming out in the first round of regionals in 2023. Oh, and let’s not forget they missed the 2021 postseason altogether due to COVID protocols. There’s more than enough talent on the roster to make some noise even after Olympic champion Suni Lee’s departure, but—with such a monumental loss—it’s tricky to predict exactly how Auburn will fare.
  • Eastern Michigan: Every couple of years, the Eagles have a breakout season, and it always seems to come out of nowhere. In 2016 and 2017 they finished No. 17 and No. 27, and in 2021 No. 32. Their other rankings in the interim have been in the 40s and 50s, missing the postseason entirely. You can just never be sure what kind of year Eastern Michigan will have.
  • NC State: The Wolfpack was the biggest loser of a new regional seeding format in 2021. Despite being ranked No. 26, it was relegated to a play-in. Still, it was victorious in that win-or-go-home match-up, then advanced out of the regional semifinal into the regional final, finishing the year at No. 15. In 2022, N.C. State got the reverse treatment, skipping the play-in despite a No. 30 ranking. Whenever there’s monkey business in regional seeding, the Wolfpack seems to be involved.
  • Oregon State: In the last decade, the Beavers have finished as high as No. 6, as low as No. 27, and pretty much everywhere else in between. Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey plans to take a step back in 2024 to focus on training for Paris, but the team also adds some pretty stellar newcomers to fill in the gaps. How will this season play out? Your guess is as good as ours!


Want a fresh start altogether? Here are three teams making their competitive debuts in 2024, which means you can say you were a fan before it was cool. 

Mariners, Nationals, Las Vegas Athletics Thunder, Hornets, Pelicans Chargers, Rams, Raiders
Queens, Lindenwood, Southern Indiana Jacksonville State, Liberty, James Madison
  • Utica: We don’t have a whole lot of intel on the Pioneers, but we’re very excited about what we do know: This is a solid roster headlined by fifth-year Alexis Castellaneta, who earned freshman and senior of the year honors from her alma mater, Brockport. They also have one of the coolest mascots in the game, Trax the Pioneer Moose.
  • Clemson: If the team’s inaugural Gymnastics 101 exhibition was any indication, this isn’t going to be your typical debut season: The Tigers’ roster features a dangerous combination of both seasoned veterans and promising newcomers and should pose an immediate threat in the ACC (and possibly the postseason). Clemson will kick off its debut season ranked, as both College Gym News and the WCGA predict an unprecedented first-year regionals berth for the newcomers.  
  • Talladega: The Tornados are just the second HBCU to sponsor gymnastics, joining the Fisk Bulldogs (coming off of their own inaugural season). Head coach Aja Sims Fletcher—a former All-American at Alabama—and staff have amassed an impressive amount of talent and depth in under a year, particularly on floor.

READ THIS NEXT: A Lot Has Changed: Your 2024 Season Primer

Article by Claire Billman, Brandis Heffner, and Emily Minehart


  1. My only gripe with this is categorizing Ohio State’s football team as an “all-time great” but Michigan as a “current team to beat.” Michigan has 11 claimed national titles (7 unclaimed) and 45 conference titles. They also have 1002 wins – the most of any college football team. That’s more than Ohio State in every category except unclaimed national titles (they have 1 more unclaimed but three fewer claimed). Despite struggling in the 00s/10s, Michigan both started the conversation and continues to dominate it.

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