SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah gymnastics team announced its 2019 schedule on Tuesday. Fans can look forward to top competition as the Red Rocks will take on three SEC and two Big Ten programs, in addition to their Pac-12 slate.
“The best way to prepare for the postseason is to go against nationally competitive teams week-in and week-out, which is what this schedule is all about,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said in a statement.
On the calendar are showdowns against LSU, Georgia, Missouri, Michigan and Penn State. In-state rival BYU rounds out the non-conference schedule.
For the second-consecutive year, Utah will compete on podium during the regular season. The Mardi Gras Invitational on Friday, Feb. 15, is a podium quad meet in St. Charles, Missouri, featuring Utah, LSU, Missouri and Stanford. Both Utah and LSU are recent runners-up at the NCAA championships, in 2015 and 2016/2017 respectively. Stanford has qualified for nationals 16 times, and Missouri in 2010.
“Getting on podium before the NCAA championships is critical in our preparation (for postseason),” Farden said.
The Red Rocks will open their season on the weekend of Jan. 4-5 at home against the Nittany Lions. It’ll mark Penn State’s first appearance in the Huntsman Center since 2010. BYU will travel 45 miles north to Salt Lake City on Friday, Jan. 11, for an in-state rivalry meet.
Utah will host Michigan on the weekend of March 1-2 to wrap up the regular season at the Huntsman Center before taking off to Georgia on Friday, March 15, for a regular-season finale.
While the Pac-12 league office won’t announce exact dates until September, Utah’s conference opponents and weekends have also been revealed. The hottest ticket will come on the weekend of Feb. 22-24, when the Red Rocks host the defending NCAA champion UCLA Bruins, who Utah upset last year in regular-season competition at Pauley Pavilion.
Other Pac-12 home dates include Arizona on Feb. 1-3 and California on Feb. 8-10. Utah’s away conference meets include Oregon State (Jan. 18-20), Arizona State (Jan. 25-27) and Stanford on Monday, Feb. 18 — 72 hours after meeting them at the Mardi Gras Invitational.
Looking at the postseason, the Pac-12 championship is scheduled for Friday, March 22. After 25 years, NCAA gymnastics is moving from a Super Six team final to a four-team final starting in 2019. Because of the switch, the regional format has changed from a single meet to four meets in three days. The 2019 regional sites are Michigan, Georgia, LSU and Oregon State.
The first round, held on Thursday, April 4, features a two-team “play in” at each site, thus four dual meets across the country. The winner of each play-in meet will advance to a regional session and join the top 16 seeds, which automatically qualify for the regional weekend’s second day set for Friday, April 5.
Each site will hold two four-team competitions on day two. The top two teams from each session will advance to the Super Regional on Saturday, April 6, where the top two teams from each site will qualify for the NCAA championship semifinals on Friday, April 19. Semifinal competition consists of two four-team meets. The first-and second-place teams from each semifinal will move on to the “Four on the Floor” final on Saturday, April 20, to decide the national champion.