Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Talking with Greg Marsden

Utah Athletics 
When it was announced on April 20 that Greg Marsden was retiring after 40 years as the Head Coach at the University of Utah, it all seemed so sudden.  Marsden, who built the Utes program from the ground up, is passing the torch to the very capable hands of Megan Marsden and Tom Farden.  While it seemed sudden to gym fans, Marsden had planned this all season.  "Part of what I talked to them about was that it was very important to me that the focus of this year not be that it was my last year," Marsden said, "that the focus remain on our team and what their accomplishment are, and especially our seniors, and their last season."  

In the past 40 years, Marsden created an empire in the sport on Collegiate Gymnastics.  It took only five years, and then the winning started and hasn't stopped.  Under Marsden's leadership, Utah is the only team to qualify to every National Championship, as well as lead the team to 17 top 2 Championship finishes, including a second place finish this year.  While it seemed heartbreaking watching the Utes finish .05 behind the Florida Gators, Marsden has no regrets.  

"You know, I've never been an outcome kind of guy.  I know outcome is important, but that has never been my focus.  My focus has been on the process.  It hurt because we got that close..." Marsden shared, "So it hurt for about a minute, but then you think, no one really expected us to do that, no one expected us to be there, and we did everything we could.  The girls really left it out on the floor, did everything they could, and I believe in what I preach, and that’s all you can expect."

Deseret News

It seems odd that the team that leads attendance for all female college sports once had to beg people to come to meets.  In the beginning, Marsden worked hard to get people to support his athletes.  He was surprised how little people came to their meets, even after they started achieving national success.  "I was young and enthusiastic, and was thinking I didn't understand why the media didn't give us more attention.  I thought we deserved that, so I kept calling, kept calling, kept calling, and finally, one of them got fed up with me, and kinda let me have it," Marsden remembers, "saying, Coach, it’s not our responsibility to promote your program, when you have 4,000/ 5,000 people up there in the stands, you won’t have to call us anymore, we’ll be there."  Marsden worked hard to correct this, and eventually, 15,000 people started coming.  

"It became as important to me as the success that we had on the competitive floor.  So I looked at the sports that were successful with attendance, football, men’s basketball, hockey baseball, those kinds of things, and I tried to find the common thread in those sports.  I took those things and tried to do it in an appropriate way for gymnastics," Marsden shared,  "So we built a great environment, and once we had that, and I was convinced that we had a great event that people would enjoy being at, then we just went out in the community, anybody that would listen to us, we went and spoke to everybody, we took our team to elementary schools, preschools, we went anywhere that would have us, to try and convince people to come and give it a chance."
Utah Athletics

Looking ahead, Marsden isn't scared for the future of Utah Gymnastics, but for his future and the future of the sport.  Since he started the program in 1976, it is all Marsden has known.  "I told my seniors, they’re scared too, they’re finishing their careers in gymnastics, they’re finishing their college career," Marsden says, "I told them, the way I looked at it as, if you guys can do it, I can do it.  That’s kinda the way I’m approaching it."

"...There is just not going to be enough money to go around, and I am really concerned for the Olympic Sports, whether we are even be around in 5 or 10 years," Marsden voices, "gymnastics is number three on both the Pac 12 and SEC networks.  Everybody is just blown away by that right now.  I think it is really important for us to capitalize on that and get ourselves on live television as much as we possibly can with hopefully great ratings.  And then we need to make that transition to post season as well.  I don’t know if you watched it but the stands were relatively empty and we were not on live television.  We've got to do whatever it takes to get ourselves on live television with full stands.  If television wants us to stay, we’ll stay.  If they don’t, I don’t know if we will be around."


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