Gymnasts strive for perfection every single day, and the ultimate goal in NCAA gymnastics is to score a perfect 10. A perfect 10 should be a moment of celebration, but unfair scoring and limited media coverage can damper the moment.
The Tennessee Collegiate Classic featured seven NCAA gymnastics teams across two sessions. All seven teams smashed their program-record scores, some by multiple points. In gymnastics, competitions are often decided by tenths of a point. This is why teams improving by multiple points seemingly overnight raised eyebrows across the gymnastics community.
The Tennessee Collegiate Classic had no live broadcast nor a live stream, which is a massive disservice to the gymnasts and the fans. Fans cannot analyze the team’s record-breaking performances apart from a few routines posted on the team's social media pages. The routines posted on social media have generated backlash and accusations of overscoring. Unfortunately, the gymnasts are the ones who end up receiving the criticism that should be directed towards the judges.
The first session of the competition featured Fisk University, Lindenwood University, and Northern Illinois University. Lindenwood won the session with a score of 197.075, breaking the program record of 196.400 set in 2018. Lindenwood’s gymnastics team is one of 10 teams being cut by the university due to budget constraints, and this is their final season. In the 10 years of the program's existence, Lindenwood won six Midwest Independent Conference titles and four USA Gymnastics national titles.
Northern Illinois finished second with a score of 196.400, breaking their program record from 2022 by 0.050 points. Fisk finished third with a score of 193.400, surpassing their program record by a full point. The school started its gymnastics program last season and became the first HBCU to compete in NCAA gymnastics.
The second session took place later the same day and featured Ball State University, Kent State University, Southeast Missouri State University, and the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. UW-Whitewater finished fourth with a score of 194.450, not only breaking their program record but also the Division III record by nearly a full point.
SEMO also broke its program record by almost a full point and finished third with a score of 197.050. Lindsay Ockler scored a perfect 10 on the uneven bars, making it the second time ever that a gymnast from the program has accomplished this feat.
Kent State finished second with a score of 197.725, breaking their program record of 197.050 from 2004. Karlie Franz scored a perfect 10 on floor exercise and was the first Kent State gymnast to score a perfect 10 since 2004. This routine was not uploaded to social media, so we have no way of assessing the fairness of the score.
Ball State won the meet with a total score of 198.025, demolishing their program record of 196.900 from 2023. For context, three days after the meet in Tennessee, Ball State scored 196.600 at a home meet against Bowling Green. They were the first team in the NCAA to score above 198 in the 2024 season, and this is significant because typically only teams in contention for the NCAA title can score above 198. Ball State’s score is now the record for the Mid-American Conference. The program also received three perfect 10s, one on vault for Suki Pfister and two on uneven bars for Megan Teter and Zoe Middleton.
In total, there were six perfect 10s at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic, which doubled the total number of perfect 10s across the NCAA in 2024. Teter and Middleton’s routines were posted on social media, and people noticed deductions such as flexed feet and leg separations that should have lowered the score.
Because there was no broadcast of the event, we cannot truly know whether the scoring was accurate or not, but it seems unlikely that every single team would break their program records by such large margins in an accurately scored meet. None of the teams at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic are Power 5 teams, so they are often underlooked and underappreciated. However, unfair scores do not generate positive attention towards these teams. For example, Ball State had to turn off replies and limit comments on their social media pages due to the backlash. Unfair scores also jeopardize the legitimacy of the sport and turn off potential viewers. Scores matter if we want gymnastics to be considered a serious sport, and overscoring gymnasts is not helping them in the long run.