The quest for No. 9 begins Friday for Oklahoma gymnastics.
The Sooners, who have competed through the loss of Olympian Jake Dalton and multiple injuries, were not expected to compete for an NCAA Men's Championship. That forced Oklahoma coach Mark Williams to change this season's game plan.
This weekend at Penn State, Williams and the Sooners will compete to bring home the ninth national title.
Q: How is recruiting a gymnast different from a football coach recruiting a five-star recruit he knows may not stay for his four years of eligibility? Do you plan for the long term differently?
A: “There's not too many occasions where we'll recruit somebody who gets wowed away by the money they can earn doing the sport they love to do. In most cases, we are selling a package of the importance of their education and having an opportunity to continue to do their sport.
“We're trying to provide them the best opportunity to be on a team that has significance, that competes for championships while preparing themselves academically to step into a different world as soon as they're done with college where they aren't doing gymnastics anymore and following their career path that they've at least been given a good step toward whatever that next life is. Ninety-nine percent of the time it has nothing to do with them as gymnasts.”
How did this year change when Jake Dalton decided to turn professional?
“What it did was made us sort of rally as a team, but we can't necessarily replace what Jake gave us. In many ways, score wise, it was almost six or seven points to our team score, but it provided opportunities for a lot of guys who didn't get to do much more then a couple events last year.
“I was really amazed in some respects that somebody like Alec Robin, who was a walk-on two years ago and actually not recruited but came here for the opportunity to do gymnastics and go to college, and now he's our top all-arounder for this season.