The University of Utah's gymnastics team and its legendary home-meet mystique will finally gain a national television spotlight this season on College Sports Television (CSTV), through cooperation with KJZZ-TV Ch. 14.
The bad news is that junior Rachel Tidd may not be part of the TV package. The back pain that plagued her last season has not lessened during the summer and may even be worse. She has not yet been able to train with the team.
Coach Greg Marsden said Tidd's pain situation "has the potential of not resolving itself" as doctors, who tried deadening a nerve, seem now to be at a loss for finding a solution.
Tidd's problems first showed up as back spasms last December, and she missed the first three weeks of competition. It was later determined that chronic inflamed osteo-arthritis was a culprit, and it got worse the more she did.
Tidd got through the 2005 season practicing or competing when she could. Determined to make a difference in the postseason after missing her freshman nationals with mononucleosis, Tidd scored 39.40 all-around and tied for 12th nationally, making second-team All-American in April at Auburn. She produced 39.50 on Super Six team finals night as Utah placed third.
She hasn't been able to do much gymnastics since. "We hope there will be some kind of a breakthrough between now and January. There is no point in making a decision now," Marsden said, adding the team has to help her feel positive and realize that scholastics are more important.
The Utes do, however, have Gritt Hofmann back for a second "senior" season as the NCAA granted her an additional year of eligibility due to time lost for injuries earlier in her career. "That was great," said Marsden.
The CSTV package will help recruiting and allow the rest of the country to see the precision of Ute home meets, which annually draw the NCAA's best attendance and produced a 24-year, 170 home dual-meet win streak that is considered a record for any sport. Since that streak ended Jan. 10, 2003, with a loss to NCAA-champion UCLA, Utah is 16-0 at home.
Four 2006 Ute home meets will be televised locally and shown tape-delayed on Sundays at 5 p.m. by KJZZ, continuing a move away from live telecasts that Marsden said could have hurt attendance.
Those four meets will be aired nationally at yet-undetermined times on CSTV, which is available on cable, satellite, broadband, Sirius satellite radio and other outlets.
Meets to be shown are Nebraska, Jan. 20; Minnesota, Feb. 17; Georgia, March 3 and Brigham Young, March 24. Eventually, Marsden expects all home meets to be televised locally and nationally, and he hopes that exposure will extend Utah's fan base.
This helps put the 10-time national-champion Utes on more equal footing with Pac 10 and Southeastern Conference teams, whose meets are televised weekly by ESPN or other outlets.Marsden said no recruits have ever told him they chose another school because its meets were televised, but it is an issue that interests a lot of themand especially their parents, who can't travel cross country for every meet but want to follow their daughter's progress.