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You’re Nuts: If you were in charge, which college sport would get more primetime TV coverage?

Your (almost) daily dose of good-natured, Ohio State banter.

NCAA Womens Gymnastics: Norman Regional Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

From now until preseason camp starts in August, Land-Grant Holy Land will be writing articles around a different theme every week. This week is all about what we would do if we were in charge of our favorite position group, team, conference, or sport. You can catch up on all of the Theme Week content here and all of our ”If I Was in Charge” articles here.

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

Today’s Question: If you were in charge, which college sport would get more primetime TV coverage?

Jami’s Take: Women’s Gymnastics

At the Summer Olympics, gymnastics is regularly among the highest-viewed sports of the Games, with ratings spiking during the gymnastics time slots.

The sport’s popularity is due in large part to the fact that the gymnasts make extreme athleticism look easy, and the highest-level skills are on display. By the end of the Olympics, the gymnasts are often household names.

But what if I told you you didn’t have to wait four years to watch gymnasts compete? And what if I told you those very same Olympians who became national heroes were competing in collegiate gymnastics? Would you tune in?

I think many people would if these meets were given prime media real estate.

So if I were in charge, NCAA women’s gymnastics would get a primetime slot — and it would be must-watch television.

Now, to be fair, the national championship did just air in a primetime slot on ABC (or with an ESPN+ subscription), but throughout the regular competition season, meets air on the conference-specific networks that people are less likely to stumble upon.

By boosting gymnastics to the primetime slot, people might turn it on by accident and become hooked, or they might see the marketing that accompanies primetime air spots and be intentional about watching. After all, it’s hard to watch something you don’t know is airing in the first place.

But since we know Olympics gymnastics is already a draw, and given the fact that many Olympians compete in the NCAA, the appeal is already there.

In fact, in this year’s championships, three Olympians took the floor — silver medalist Jordan Chiles for UCLA (whose impressive perfect 10 on bars still wasn’t enough to secure the all-around title, when she was upset by Utah’s Maile O’Keefe), gold medalist Jade Carey for Oregon State on beam, and silver medalist Grace McCallum for Utah. 2016 alternate and former U.S. National team member and 2017 U.S. National Champion Ragan Smith also took the floor for Oklahoma.

These are names people know if they follow the Olympics, and with the addition of social media, other gymnasts’ routines have started to go viral and the sport has become buzzier.

It’s time to take it to the next level with primetime slots throughout the season.

For many years, collegiate gymnastics was viewed as lesser-than, the dumping ground for those who couldn’t make it as elite gymnasts. But that has changed in recent years as elite gymnasts often compete collegiately as well.

That’s not to say there aren’t differences though. In fact, though the events and apparatuses are the same between the Olympics and college, the elite gymnasts are by no means shoo-ins for spots on the podium, precisely because of differences between the elite and collegiate versions of the sport.

The routines at the college level are shorter than Olympic routines, and they are technically “easier” (take that with a grain of salt, because nothing happening is easy). This is partially due to limits on training hours (capped at 20 hours a week for collegiate gymnasts).

But — and this is a but with a big impact — college gymnastics still uses the “perfect 10” scoring system, meaning scores start at 10 and get deducted from there based on errors.. In 2005, elite gymnastics changed its scoring system to exceed a 10 and combine execution and technical difficulty scores.

Under the old-school system used by the NCAA, there is absolutely no room for error. The margins of difference can be hundreds of points, and even the slightest wobble on a landing can knock someone off the podium. Perfect 10s are rare, but they also do happen, and that adds an element of excitement for viewers.

In fact, in this year’s finals, Chiles earned a perfect 10 on bars WHILE O’Keefe earned a 10 on beam to edge out Chiles for the all-around title. If you’ve ever watched a nail-biter in the Olympics, you know the feeling. That happens almost every time in gymnastics because the pressure is so high to do your routine perfectly. Something as small as failing to point your toe can knock you out of the running.

But perhaps the most compelling difference is the team nature of the collegiate version of the sport. In college, there is more room for athletes to put on a show — choreography for floor routines can have more sass, the music selections are often higher energy, and the fun factor is heightened. Add to this the fact that your team gets rowdy on the sidelines, and it’s an extremely enjoyable atmosphere.

TV channels have the opportunity to continue the trajectory they’ve been on in recent years by adding more collegiate gymnastics to primetime slots. It is likely it would gain momentum with the additional exposure and be mutually beneficial for the networks and colleges alike, and it would be the first thing I would push if I were in charge.

Matt’s Take: Softball

I think Jami’s suggestion is a really good one. Between the fervent following that women's gymnastics gets during the Olympics and the social media attention that many of its top athletes garner, I think that there is a strong argument to be made that women’s gymnastics could be the next sport to take a major step forward in popularity if given the exposure.

However, I am going in another direction and sticking with a sport that I know very well; softball. I have coached fastpitch softball at the club, high school, and college levels, and worked in the front office of a professional softball team and league more than a decade and a half ago. So, my love for this sport runs very deep, and I have seen a lot of hills and valleys in the public popularity of the game over that time. In the early aughts, riding high with the popularity of Jenny Finch, Cat Osterman, Lisa Fernandez, and many others, the sport seemed poised to break through thanks to the dominance of Team USA.

However, then — largely because of the dominance of Team USA — the International Olympic Committee decided to remove baseball and softball from the Summer Games. While certainly a disappointing result for baseball national teams around the world, that sport still has incredibly popular professional teams that draw millions of fans every year, so, on the whole, baseball would not be dramatically hurt by its lack of Olympic inclusion.

Softball, on the other hand, most certainly would be. While various professional leagues — primarily National Pro Fastpitch and Athletes Unlimited — have tried to keep the game growing, but without the consistent exposure of the Olympic games, it has been tough for the sport to regain its momentum. Softball did return to the Summer Games in 2021 (the pandemic-delayed 2020 games) because host nation Japan was able to select it and baseball for a temporary return, but the sport will not be included in next summer’s Paris Games.

If you watch the NCAA Women’s Softball Championship tournament, and especially the Women’s College World Series, you know how exciting this sport can be. It takes the best of baseball and condenses not only the length of the game but the pace of the action as well. It is a very quick game where speed is rewarded. While the bunting, slapping, and base running that defined a previous era of the game are not as prevalent as they were a generation or so ago, they still play a big part in how some of the best teams win games.

What has replaced that aspect of offenses’ repertoires is the long ball. Much like in baseball, recent advancements in training, technique, and equipment have made the home run a much more integral part of the game. So, softball is now a thrilling mix of speed and power, which means that at any given time, you never know what can happen.

Of course, the pitching in the sport is also a huge draw. While the dominant pitchers of the past — who could average a no-hitter every other game or so — are no longer the norm, if you have a pitcher who can shut down a lineup by moving the ball, changing speeds, and even blowing it by them, it can be an absolutely captivating sight.

College softball games are just fun, they are relatively short (unless you go to extra innings, which often have the same excitement of postseason hockey), they are fast-paced — both offensively and defensively exciting — and the teams and players are often the most entertaining athletes you will see during a game.

As my friend and former LGHL contributor Kelsey Trainor likes to say, “Invest in women,” and if ESPN, ABC, or any other broadcast network wants to put their money where their mouth is on equality, softball would be a very smart place to go next.


Who has the right answer to today’s question?

This poll is closed

  • 37%
    Jami: Women’s Gymnastics
    (3 votes)
  • 62%
    Matt: Softball
    (5 votes)
8 votes total Vote Now