Why controversy followed BYU’s upset of Boise State

BYU gymnastics upset Boise State to advance to the NCAA Fayetteville regional semifinals Wednesday, but the Cougars victory wasn't without controversy.
BYU gymnastics upset Boise State to advance to the NCAA Fayetteville regional semifinals Wednesday, but the Cougars victory wasn't without controversy. | Brooklynn Kelson, BYU Photo

BYU will compete in the NCAA gymnastics semifinals of the Fayetteville regional Thursday night against No. 2 LSU, No. 15 Minnesota and No. 18 Oregon State.

That’s because the Cougars prevailed against Boise State in the first round Wednesday afternoon, a thrilling competition between former conference rivals that ended in a tie and was decided by tiebreaker.

It was part of an exciting opening day of NCAA gymnastics postseason competition that will continue through Sunday night.

A day after BYU’s triumph, though, and the Cougars’ win has been accompanied by some controversy.

One routine in particular — Sophie Dudley’s floor routine — has engendered quite a bit of debate.

First, some context. BYU and Boise State initially tied after each team finished with a score of 195.750 after competing all four events. NCAA procedures in the event of a tie require that all routines be counted. Normally, the five best routines for a team are counted on each event and the lowest scoring routine is dropped.

When all six scores on each event were counted Wednesday, BYU edged out Boise State and claimed the upset.

One of the dropped routines that was later counted, leading to BYU’s win, was Dudley’s floor routine. It was the scoring of that routine that was an issue for many.

Dudley scored a 9.500 on her routine, the lowest of the Cougars’ scores on floor, largely because of the landing of her most difficult tumbling pass. Dudley competes a double layout and struggled with her landing of that skill Wednesday.

The Balance Beam Situation, which published a live blog of the meet, noted of her landing, “(a) super deep landing, knee only barely above the ground if at all, with a lunge forward.”

At issue was whether Dudley’s knee hit the ground or not. If it did, many argued, Dudley should have received an additional .300 deduction for a fall, which would have meant a score of 9.200 and a Boise State victory.

Three of the four judges at the meet decided that her knee did not hit the floor, though, with only one giving Dudley a score of 9.200. That score was dropped, leading to Dudley’s 9.500.

“With a range of (scores) of 9.200 to 9.650, presumably the 9.2 judge (is) saying that was a fall and the others not, but (there) should have been at least .3 (deduction) for that landing alone,” the Balance Beam Situation wrote.

College Gym News pointed out that a fall on floor in NCAA women’s gymnastics requires that it “be weight-bearing. It’s very reasonable to assume the judges didn’t call that weight-bearing. And based off the scores, three out of four judges decided that Dudley did not use the floor to maintain balance.”

Added former judge Rhiannon Franck:

Controversy with scoring isn’t new to college gymnastics, and the debate surrounding Dudley’s score is sure to be only the first of many this postseason.

Last postseason, there was significant debate surrounding a tiebreaker scenario that saw LSU and Michigan tie in the Denver regional final, with the Tigers advancing on a tiebreaker similar to BYU.

Controversy or not, the Cougars moved on and will have a chance to keep their season alive against the Tigers, Golden Gophers and Beavers.

It will be a tall task. LSU has been a top-three team all season, Minnesota nearly upset Michigan State to win the Big Ten championship, and Oregon State is led by Olympic gold medalist Jade Carey.

BYU wasn’t expected to beat Boise State, and in the postseason anything can happen. Sometimes it just brings with it a debate.