UCLA Gymnastics Head Coach Chris Waller Resigns
Waller's departure should bring a fresh start to the program.
UCLA Athletics announced today that Chris Waller has resigned as the head coach of UCLA Gymnastics to “pursue other professional opportunities, effectively immediately.”
The official release went on to discuss Waller’s contributions to the program as a coach for the past 20 years.
To be sure, Waller certainly played a significant role in the team’s successes during that time. If he wasn’t an effective coach, Miss Val would not have kept him on her staff for 17 years.
But following a legend is hard and the circumstances of Waller’s tenure made it even more difficult.
UCLA was ranked third in the nation and poised to compete for another national title during Waller’s first season when the season came to a crashing halt due to COVID-19.
While no one knew it at the time, that was as good as it would get under Waller and the next two seasons brought nothing but disappointment.
Last season, the team missed the NCAA Championships for the first time since 2006 as the Bruins lost stars Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian to graduation the year before.
This year began with off the floor issues when one of the team’s freshmen allegedly spouted racial epithets. It lead to the gymnast’s departure from the program and the Bruins started the season with one of their worst performances in recent memory.
The tension led the Bruins to their worst score in seven years when they opened the season in Minnesota with a 194.85.
To the team’s credit, they managed to work past the situation to post their highest team score since 2019 against UC Berkeley when they scored a 198.05. But, in the NCAA Regionals, the team fell 0.025 points short of making the NCAA Championships and, as a result, the team missed the NCAA Championships for two consecutive years for the first time in the history of the program.
With the team underperforming in consecutive seasons, it seems pretty clear that Waller’s contract, which was set to expire on June 30, probably would not have been renewed without even considering the outside-the-gym issue that occurred at around the start of the season and that likely resulted in today’s resignation.
Now, the search for a replacement will begin. The search will be led by Senior Associate Athletic Director Dr. Christina Rivera. It will be interesting to see whether the Athletic Department opts for someone with recent ties to the program like Arkansas head coach Jordyn Wieber or Long Island University head coach Randy Lane, who both were on Miss Val’s last coaching staff, or opts for someone with either less recent, or even no, ties to the program.
But this much is clear: UCLA Gymnastics needs a change after the past two seasons.
Now, that change will be coming.