All right, I’ve delivered the good news, so now it’s time to deal with the bad news: No. 6 Georgia held a lead on No. 3 Utah after three rotations in Saturday’s gymnastics meet in Stegeman Coliseum, but the Gym Dogs could not maintain their advantage, going down to defeat by a 195.9-195.8 margin. Georgia lost narrowly to Utah last year, as well.
The competition began with the Red and Black on the vault and the Red Rocks on the bars. Thanks to Lindsey Cheek’s career-best 9.925 in the event, Georgia took an early 49.075-49.05 lead. Another 9.925, this time from Gina Nuccio on the bars, helped the Gym Dogs card a 49.2 in the second rotation. Utah managed a 49.125 in the vault, affording the home team a 98.275-98.175 edge at the midpoint.
The Athenians earned a cumulative 48.925 score on the beam during the third rotation, which, when paired with the Red Rocks’ 48.725 tally in the floor exercise, extended the Georgia lead to 147.2-146.9. Despite Cassidy McComb’s 9.925 on the floor during the final rotation, the Gym Dogs managed only a 48.6 in the event, allowing Utah to claim the lead at the end with a 49.0 on the beam.
The loss ended a home unbeaten streak stretching back 34 meets and nearly six years, marking the latest successful skein snapped on Jay Clark’s watch. After the meet, Coach Clark acknowledged the enormity of the collapse, stating: "We know that we could have won the meet and that all we had to do was go into the final rotation and be average and we could have come out of here with a win. . . . It's just frustrating because you see opportunities for your team to put themselves at a different level of the conversation. . . . We just have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot." Georgia managed only three individual scores above 9.9 on Saturday, and McComb’s 9.925 in the floor exercise was the only score in the event over 9.75.
I’m sure Jay Clark is a very nice guy, but this program simply hasn’t competed on the same level since Suzanne Yoculan left. Considering the great shape in which Coach Yoculan left the Gym Dogs---the program she handed over had won five straight national championships---it is not outrageous to suggest that any gymnastics coach in America not named Sarah Patterson would have leapt at the opportunity to succeed Coach Yoculan at the helm in Athens. If ever there was a Georgia head coaching job for which our athletic director could have taken his pick of the best coaches in the country, this is it.
Why, then, did Damon Evans promote from within rather than hire a proven head coach from another program? Coach Clark, whose 17 seasons as an assistant at Georgia included a five-year stint as associate head coach and responsibility over the uneven bars and recruiting, may be the Ray Goff of women’s gymnastics, a fine position coach and recruiter who was promoted beyond his level of competence when being placed in command of the program. The difference, of course, is that the gymnastics equivalents of Erk Russell and Dick Sheridan wouldn’t have turned down the chance to succeed Coach Yoculan, had the job been offered.
Greg McGarity already has demonstrated his willingness to make a head coaching change when such a move was warranted. I understand that there will never be another Suzanne Yoculan, but this program deserves and can obtain the services of the second-best gymnastics coach in the country.
It increasingly is apparent that Jay Clark not only is not that coach, he isn’t even close. If this team doesn’t make the Super Six, Jay Clark’s second season as the Gym Dogs’ head coach needs to be his last.