Recently recognized as a William and Mary Honorary Alumnus, men’s gymnastics head coach Cliff Gauthier enters his 43rd season leading the Tribe. A former recipient of the Thomas Ashley Graves, Jr. Award for Sustained Excellence in Teaching at W&M, Gauthier’s long list of accolades also includes the Honor Coach Award presented by the College Gymnastics Association.
During the past 22 seasons, Gauthier has been selected as the College Gymnastics Association Collegiate Coach of the Year 15 times en route to recording more than 800 career victories. Additionally, he has produced seven Nissen-Emery Award finalists, two NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners, two NCAA national champions and two national runners-up.
The 2014 season was one of the most successful of Gauthier’s long and distinguished career, as the team claimed the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference title and qualified as a team for the NCAA Championships and finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally. Individually, senior Landon Funiciello became a three-time NCAA All-American on rings and was honored as the USA Gymnastics Senior Gymnast of the Year and the ECAC Senior Gymnast of the Year.
Gauthier’s gymnasts have combined to earn 212 USA Gymnastics Collegiate All-America awards, more than any other university since the inception of the awards in 1990. Additionally, W&M has claimed the College Gymnastics Association’s National Academic Team Titles a record seven times (1991, 1992, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2015) and placed second on six occasions (1994, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2009, 2013). The 2014 squad posted the highest recorded grade point average (3.622) since the inception of the team award in 1991.
Gauthier received his bachelor's degree cum laude from the University of Denver where he was a top eight NCAA Division I finalist on various events during each of his final three years of collegiate competition. His senior year was culminated by his selection as the university's outstanding scholar-athlete. Gauthier also earned a master's degree in kinesiology from the University of Colorado in between three years of teaching secondary level mathematics in the Denver area and coaching at the University of Denver. He and his wife, Linda, have two daughters and six grandchildren.
A Reflection on 700 Victories at W&M-For most of my colleagues in all aspects of sport from coaching and competing to sports administration and reporting, wins are the primary validation of their career or a career in sports in general. As a competitor and a young coach, I was well on my way down this same path-if you weren't a national finalist you weren't much; if you didn't win you were a loser. Had I continued down this route, my 700th victory at William and Mary would have been a great occasion and accomplishment-a validation of my coaching career-but it also could have been rather hollow as true coaching is much more than wins and losses.
I will forever be in debt to my teams at William and Mary and W&M itself for providing such a fertile ground for me in the development of my philosophy of sport, coaching, and education in general. As a result, that 700th win wasn't at all hollow just as it wasn't the primary affirmation of my career. My affirmation comes on a daily basis, watching people grow and learn, in addition to helping each other out in a true spirit of teamwork and personal development.
Since coming to W&M it seems as if our gymnastics program has perpetually improved step by step. Some of the dual meet wins really do stand out as they signaled our stepping up another notch. Our steps forward in championship meets were also significant and quite memorable-the first State Title, the first trophy at the Southern Intercollegiates, the first SIGL title, the victories at the NAGL and the ECAC conference meets, the USA Gymnastics Collegiate titles, as well as our first team appearance at the NCAA's.
A lot of first individual accomplishments also stand out in my mind. The first State Champion, the first SIGL finalist, the first NCAA qualifier, the first NCAA regional champ, the first NCAA All-American, the first USAG Collegiate All-American, the first USAG Collegiate national champion, the first USAG Collegiate outstanding senior, the first William and Mary Outstanding Senior Athlete, the first W&M Hall of Fame Inductee, the first Nissen-Emery Award finalist, and the first NCAA national champion, all come to mind. Paralleling these athletic achievements were always the honors projects, the Phi Beta Kappa initiations, the numerous academic All-American awards, and the year in, year out top five finishes in the national team academic standings.
The individual accomplishments in which so many of our gymnasts got the most out of their abilities often exceeding all legitimate expectations in their gymnastics and their academics while at W&M and then going on to great successes in life after graduation have been quite memorable. As I look back on these team and individual accomplishments, I have always had many more victories than wins.