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UCLA gymnastics coach Chris Waller resigns after 3 years as head coach

UCLA gymnastics coach Chris Waller looks on during a meet. Waller resigned as the head coach of the Bruins on Tuesday afternoon.
(Ashley Kenney/Photo editor)

By Sam Settleman

April 19, 2022 3:37 p.m.

For the second time in three years, the Bruins will undergo a change in leadership.

UCLA gymnastics coach Chris Waller resigned Tuesday, he announced in a statement released by UCLA Athletics. Waller spent 17 years as an assistant or associate head coach with the Bruins before being promoted to head coach in 2019 after the retirement of former coach Valorie Kondos Field.

Before coaching at UCLA, Waller competed as a gymnast with the blue and gold for four seasons, helping lead the Bruins to a national championship in 1987. Following his collegiate career, Waller participated in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, where he was an all-around finalist and earned fifth place on the pommel horse.

“UCLA Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life for the last 35 years,” Waller said in the statement. “Being able to coach at my alma mater was an honor and a privilege, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to coach so many incredible women who have been a part of this special program.”

Prior to taking on the head coaching role, Waller helped UCLA capture four NCAA titles as an assistant, including the team’s most recent championship in 2018. Since taking over as head coach, however, the Bruins have not been able to replicate the same success.

In 2020, UCLA’s season was cut short before the postseason because of the pandemic, with eight of the team’s seniors graduating. Rostering a bevy of underclassmen in 2021, the Bruins failed to qualify to nationals as a team for the first time since 2006 and finished the year ranked No. 13 in the country.

The story was much the same for UCLA in 2022, as the blue and gold missed out on the NCAA championships for the second straight year and ended the season ranked No. 14.

The 2022 season got off to a rocky start for the Bruins amid the transfer of freshman Alexis Jeffrey in the week leading up to the opening meet of the year. The ensuing turmoil among the team prompted seniors Margzetta Frazier and Sekai Wright to make an appearance on Amanda Seales’ podcast, “Small Doses with Amanda Seales,” with Frazier ultimately calling for Waller’s firing.

[Related: UCLA gymnast Margzetta Frazier calls for coaching change amid hostile environment

On Tuesday morning, Frazier tweeted a picture of her response to a UCLA Athletics feedback form, ending her comments with “A coach must be a nurturer first, before anything.”

 

 

Athletic director Martin Jarmond will be tasked with the second coaching replacement of his tenure after the departure of former UCLA women’s soccer coach Amanda Cromwell in December.

In a statement, Jarmond said he is thankful for Waller’s contributions to the program.

“Chris played a big role in building this program’s championship legacy the past 20 years,” Jarmond said in the statement. “We thank him for his contributions to what has become a flagship program for the university and one of the premier gymnastics programs in the nation. Chris is and always will be a Bruin, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

Senior associate athletic director Christina Rivera will begin the national search for Waller’s replacement immediately.

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Sam Settleman | Sports editor
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
Settleman is currently the Sports editor on the football, men's basketball and gymnastics beats. He was previously an assistant editor on the gymnastics, women's soccer, women's golf, men's water polo and women's water polo beats and a contributor on the gymnastics and women's water polo beats.
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