Entertainment demands a clear winner
Aversion to ties almost irrational
Absolutely, there should be rules preventing ties during a championship competition.
We used to have "ties" in college football. Back when Colorado was good at football (this was 1990), the Buffaloes shared the national title with Georgia Tech. Each team finished atop one of the national rankings, so they were co-champions, their seasons essentially ending in the football version of a tie.
So what did we do to keep that from happening again? First we created the BCS, but even that was too dependent on arbitrary inputs, so we scrapped that, too. Now, debuting this fall, is the next step in college football's evolution: the playoff system.
We have a need for clear, undisputed champions. That's why we're obsessed with the NCAA basketball tournament. Doesn't matter if it's gymnastics or skiing or soccer or hockey or football -- ending in a tie just isn't going to cut it. Let's not pretend the NCAA is anything other than a moneymaking machine, charged with putting on sporting events for entertainment. And sporting events that are held for entertainment should always end with a winner.
It's really a simple fix. There should be a tiebreaker that also makes for compelling action. Whether or not you agree with soccer going to penalty kicks, you can't deny that it's fascinating and pressure-packed. So the next time the gymnastics team competition ends with identical scores -- and it will probably be a long time before we see it again -- each team should be able to pick one athlete to compete in the discipline of her choice.
Sudden death, for all the marbles, with the best score bringing home the trophy for the squad. (And if there is another tie score between these athletes, the coach chooses two more to compete.)
The NCAA is about money and entertainment. And under those guidelines, ties just don't get it done.
The NCAA has more than enough rules of dubious necessity. Let's not start adding to the mess just because two teams share a championship.
Ties are not inherently evil. Ties are not New Age coddling. Ties make sense in some instances. Deal with it.
We have an aversion to ties in the United States that at times borders on the irrational. There is nothing binary about most sporting contests. It's not win or lose. There is almost always a third possibility, even if we seek to purge it through overtimes, penalty shots, tiebreakers and even coin flips.
The NCAA women's gymnastics championship wasn't just any meet, of course. The entire purpose of having a tournament in any sport is presumably to determine a champion. All right, but not all tournaments are created equal. When UCLA and Florida State played to a 0-0 draw over the regulation 90 minutes in the national championship game in women's soccer this past December, they played on in overtime. If Kodi Lavrusky hadn't scored the winner for the Bruins in the first overtime period, the teams would have played another, followed by a penalty kick shootout if the score remained level.
Only one team was going to leave a champion, no matter how far the format had to stray from soccer, and that's fine in that setting.
The difference is those teams competed directly against each other. Oklahoma and Florida competed through the intermediary of judges in gymnastics. There was nothing Oklahoma's gymnasts could have done to affect their counterparts on the beam, nor anything Florida could have done to affect its counterparts on the vault.
The Sooners and Gators competed against the judges and ended up with the same score, just as Tina Maze and Dominique Gisin raced the clock in the Olympic women's downhill and shared a gold medal.
We don't need a tiebreaker because nothing is broken.