Men's Gymnastics Reels From Cut; Leaves Only One West Coast Team

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Men's Gymnastics Cut

Staff Writer Jack Wang discusses the elimination of Cal's men's gymnastics, along with its regional and national implications.

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The 2012 season would have marked the Cal men's gymnastics team's 100th anniversary, another milestone in a legacy that includes four NCAA team titles, 29 individual champions and 11 Olympians.

The Bears will stop short with their 99th.

Rumors had swirled for months about their possible elimination; those became official Tuesday afternoon.

Coach Tim McNeill, a three-time national champion at Cal just three years ago, gathered the team to deliver the news just weeks after his own hiring. He wanted to give his gymnasts notice 10 minutes before their meeting with athletic director Sandy Barbour at noon, but no amount of time really softens this sort of blow.

"You don't really have words for it," said Daniel Geri, who helped spearhead a campaign to save the program this summer. "It's a very sad thing. You just feel crushed. I don't know what else to say."

The Bears had collected $105,000 in donor pledges for 2012. Campus-low annual operating expenditures of $63,950 in 2008-09, according to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education, couldn't overcome the lack of local and regional varsity competition - one of the critera used to determine cuts.

Without Cal, Stanford is the only men's gymnastics team left on the West Coast. The MPSF conference will consist of just the Cardinal, Oklahoma and Air Force. There will only be 16 collegiate varsity squads remaining nationwide; in 1970, there were 129.

Some worry this spells the beginning of the end of the sport collegiately.

"A domino effect certainly is possible, just because there's so few programs as it is now," McNeill said. "But I'm hopeful the schools will look at what happened here at Cal and realize that's not an OK solution ... I hope we didn't just set an example for the rest of these schools to follow."

Added Stanford coach Thom Glielmi: "I don't see how any athletic director would want to support a team or a program that has nobody to compete against."

The Bears' roster still includes world-class athletes. Senior Bryan Del Castillo junior Glen Ishino are both currently part of the U.S. national team; senior Kyle Bunthuwong has also made the roster in the past. The change undoubtedly hurts their ability to continue training.

If any athletes decide to transfer, they will be able to compete immediately, an exception to the usual NCAA regulations. Ishino, like others, is still unsure about his future. If he leaves, he'll try for Stanford, where his sister Allyse competes on the women's squad.

If he stays, he will opt to work with the club team at Cal. He knows that won't be the same.

"You don't have the same push you have from your team," he said. "It's really hard to motivate yourself ... It's just for you."

The Bears will begin writing their epilogue soon, with hopes that the specter of elimination helps fuel them to one last banner year.

"I've never seen a program come back," Glielmi said. "That's what's really discouraging with the announcement ... Had they just allowed them to keep their varsity status, dropped their scholarships, the coach - you hire a part-time coach - they have no travel budget; whatever they have to do, they'll do it.

"But once they drop, they're not coming back."


Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]

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