As of 2015 the University of Georgia (UGA) women’s gymnastics program has won ten National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) titles and sixteen Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles, and has established one of the nation’s highest attendance records for women’s college gymnastics on an annual basis.
UGA created its women’s gymnastics program in 1973 and named Melinda Airhart as the first head coach. The team, known as the Gym Dogs, became competitive in 1981 under the direction of coach Rick Walton. Walton was replaced after the 1983 season by Suzanne Yoculan, the former owner of a private gymnastics school in Pennsylvania. Under Yoculan’s direction, the program won its first SEC title, in 1986, and its first national title, in 1987. With the program’s success in the 1980s, attendance at home meets started to climb, and today the Gym Dogs sell out almost every meet at Stegeman Coliseum (which holds more than 9,900 fans).
At the NCAA championships in 2003, the Gym Dogs placed third, and in 2004 they finished second. In 2005 the Gym Dogs placed first to win the national title for the sixth time. Overall, Georgia placed third or higher in the NCAA team finals between 1987 and 2005, and the program achieved ten straight years, from 1996 to 2005, with thirty or more wins. The 2004 season was UGA’s second straight year to finish the SEC regular season undefeated.
Yoculan was named NCAA coach of the year five times and SEC coach of the year eight times. After twenty-six years her record was 836-117-7 (a winning percentage of .870). Yoculan retired in 2009, and she was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Danna Durante, former head coach at the University of California at Berkeley, took the head coach position in 2013. In 2015 she led the team to a top-ten national finish for the third time in a row.
The Gym Dogs have hosted SEC championships, NCAA regionals, and three NCAA championships at Stegeman. The student support at home meets is one of the nation’s best, and the student cheering section has been nicknamed the Gym Dog Pound. As of 2015 the Gym Dogs have produced eighteen NCAA individual champions, seventy-two NCAA all-Americans, five SEC gymnasts of the year, and six SEC freshmen of the year.