The Insider

Scotty Bauman: Thirty Years at the Helm with the Flippin’ Birds


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In the world of NCAA athletics, the coaching carousel often and routinely spins and sends a wave of change through a program and an entire athletic department. But Scotty Bauman and Southern Utah University have built a strong and successful gymnastics program spanning three decades. Courtesy Southern Utah University

CEDAR CITY – In the world of NCAA athletics, the coaching carousel often and routinely spins and sends a wave of change through a program and an entire athletic department. But Scotty Bauman and Southern Utah University have built a strong relationship now spanning three decades.

“What has kept me at SUU is that we have built such an amazing fan base here in Cedar City,” explains Bauman. “The people here have 100 percent embraced this program since the day I arrived. They have embraced me and all of my quirkiness; they have kept me here.”

His introduction to gymnastics began in Price, Utah. While in junior high, Bauman developed an interest in aerial skiing and wanted to learn how to execute the requisite twists and flips. He enrolled at Price Gymnastics to learn the mechanics, and began aiding in the program.

One summer, Ray Corn, then head gymnastics coach at Utah State University, brought his youth camp to Price and was impressed with Bauman’s work. When he learned that the youngster was to attend USU, he extended a job offer. They worked together for seven years and Corn taught his protege to love his work, and if the passion were not there, to look elsewhere. That lesson stuck with Bauman.

When recruited for the head post here, Bauman did not think he stood a chance of being hired and was instead eyeing graduate school in the dental or medical field. But he showed up nonetheless and impressed interviewers Jack Bishop (’70), Kathryn Berg and Paul Maggio (’82). Later, while touring the gym, the 23-year-old was offered the job by President Gerald R. Sherratt (’51) and AD Bishop, who asked him to start as soon as possible. Blown away by the offer, Bauman went back to Logan to discuss the job with an equally impressed Corn, and in August 1991, Scotty Bauman made it official and moved to Cedar City.

He inherited a program with talented but disenchanted gymnasts who even discouraged recruits.

“We knew we were walking into a potentially hazardous situation,” says Bauman, “but we had a plan, and the girls in the program bought into that plan in an enormous way.”

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It took Bauman and his staff a few years to return to the level of gymnasts he inherited in 1991. But three years later, they landed their first high-end recruit, Julie Talbot (’98) of Provo, Utah, a level-10 national champion on beam, extremely talented on bars, and above all, driven.

“We began basing what we looked for in a gymnast after her,” Bauman says.

The following year the program landed two more high-level recruits: Kim Nomura (’99) and Angie Gunnell. Bauman calls landing Angie, one of the best gymnasts in the country who chose a school no one ever heard of, a “recruiting coup” that forever changed the program. Thirty years and hundreds of gymnasts later, the “Flippin’ Birds” are among the nation’s most respected programs.

That rise to prominence was no accident. Bauman and his staff are deliberate in recruiting student athletes who take themselves seriously in all aspects of their lives, including in the classroom, as evidenced by 13 National Academic Championships over the years.

“The world is full of mediocrity,” he says. “One of my biggest pet peeves is settling for what seems to be mediocrity and accepting it.”

Bauman’s passion for the sport still burns strong, and he loves watching his athletes grow from shy, timid individuals trying to find themselves, into strong, fierce, goal-driven women.

There are many special moments in the 30-year career of Scotty Bauman, but “every moment a kid really surpasses what she thought she could do, those are the big reflective moments,” he says. “That satisfaction is beautiful.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2022 edition of the SUU Alumni Magazine.

—Southern Utah University