My Thoughts on the Georgia Situation
In case you haven’t been on the Gymternet in the past 24 hours (or past few days), I’m here to inform you that there has been a lot of controversy surrounding the University of Georgia gymnastics team over the past few days. Last week, it was announced that three Georgia gymnasts were “dismissed” from the team (Caroline Bradford, Jasmine Arnold and Natalie Vaculik).
The announcement of the dismissal strikes me as a tad odd, strictly because Arnold and Bradford were walk-ons, and because walk-ons typically don’t contribute on many events, they are known for coming and going without much drama surrounding their departures. It’s just part of the game. The perhaps more surprising announcement is that of Vaculik’s departure from the team, a scholarship athlete who contributed heavily on vault, bars and beam during her freshmen and sophomore seasons, but was forced to only compete on bars twice this season due to nagging injuries and illness. With only one year left of eligibility, it seems weird that Vaculik would be dismissed from the team, especially due to her contributions in her first two years of collegiate gymnastics.
Gymnasts being booted from the team aside, it was announced yesterday evening (Monday, April 24) that Danna Durante was officially fired as Georgia’s head coach. It is also rumoured that along with Durante being given the boot, two assistant coaches were ALSO fired and that the three gymnasts originally “dismissed” from the team last week, will in reality not be kicked off the Georgia squad.
Now that we have some background, here are my thoughts below. **Please note that this is simply my speculation and opinion on the situation.
First off, I would like to acknowledge that Durante’s behaviour in the past week or so has been sketchy at best. It is rumoured that she has closed the gym until July, post-poned the end of year team banquet, and dismissed three gymnasts from the team. While I cannot condone the lack of transparency of the situation, I have to admit that there have been worse things occurring in the NCAA gymnastics world this year (*cough* MSU, PSU *cough*). In the Georgia student paper, it was announced that Durante was let go, with no reason given for her sudden termination. Leaving the public to speculate as to what is happening behind closed doors.
In my opinion, I don’t agree with Durante’s firing. She brought a team that didn’t go to the Super Six ONCE under Jay Clark, to a team that qualified to Nationals every year under her reign and made it to the Super Six three out of the five years. If Danna was dismissed due to abusive coaching practices, I would 100% endorse her dismissal. However, it is speculated that she was fired for “lack of improving results” over the past few years. THIS IS WHY WE NEED TRANSPARENCY. If she was fired for not having good results, I think this just further reinforces the idea that athletic directors do not understand how the sport of gymnastics works. Sure, Georgia has been unable to reproduce another national championship victory after winning five consecutive championships from 2005-2009, but times have changed since then. Joining powerhouses UCLA, Florida, Utah and Alabama, the main challengers during the 05-09 time period, are LSU and Oklahoma, thought to be the top two teams this season. There are more top teams than ever before that can challenge for a national championship, and Georgia is in the middle of a program re-build. After losing many top recruits to other schools when Jay Clark left (the biggest ones being Lexie Priessman and Ruby Harrold), Danna finally had some top gymnasts recruited for the next few recruiting classes, including athletes like Emily Schild, Marissa Oakley, Ashley Foss, Rachael Lukacs and Megan Roberts.
Unless there were deeper issues, it would appear that Durante was fired in the middle of her rebuild. It is also possible that the athletic director from Georgia received many complaints after Durante dismissed the three gymnasts from the team, which could contribute to her termination. Along with Durante being fired however, it is rumoured that two of her assistant coaches were ALSO let go. At this time however, I don’t believe this to be the case as only Durante’s name was removed from the Georgia Gymnastics website. Bottom line here is that many of the controversy surrounding this issue would be put to rest if Georgia was a little more upfront about the reasoning surrounding their decisions.
So what do you think, was Durante rightfully terminated? Will the three gymnasts originally dismissed from the team have their positions reinstated? Will the two assistant coaches stay? Let’s keep the conversation going!
- Inbar-Gienger (aka Emily)