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Chris Waller is officially on his way out of Westwood.

The UCLA gymnastics coach announced his resignation Tuesday afternoon, effective immediately, citing a pursuit of other professional opportunities. In his three seasons in charge of the Bruins, the team failed to make the national finals after making it the previous four years.

Waller took over for Valorie Kondos Field after the 2019 season following 17 years as one of her assistants, making him a part of four of her seven championship squads. 

"UCLA Gymnastics has been a huge part of my life for the last 35 years," Waller said in a statement released by the team. "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. I will always cherish the relationships I've built with the student-athletes, fellow coaches and staff, and l wish the very best for this team."

As a student-athlete for the now-disbanded UCLA men's gymnastics team, Waller was a four-time All-American who led the Bruins to the 1987 NCAA championship. Waller won either an NCAA individual title or U.S. title ever year from 1989 to 1993, specializing on pummel horse and high bar, and was a staple of the U.S. men's national team throughout the 90s.

Waller, however, was unable to keep UCLA's women's team in contention for more national titles after taking the reins, and his three-year stint in charge of the program ended in two third-place finishes and a fourth-place finish in the Pac-12.

On top of the step back in the competitive arena, Waller's final campaign was marred by controversy from the very beginning.

Just days after UCLA put up its worst team score in seven years, word started getting out about freshman Alexis Jeffrey allegedly using racist language before eventually transferring to LSU. Seniors Margzetta Frazier and Norah Flatley used social media and podcast appearances to draw attention to the scandal, even accusing the Bruins' administration and coaching staff of ignoring their pleas for action.

Frazier ultimately suffered an injury and did not appear for the rest of the season, while Flatley won College Gym News' Comeback Gymnast of the Year coming off an injury-riddled 2021 of her own. Flatley earned all-around and balance beam All-American honors, but had to remove herself from competition at times towards the end of the season due to both mental and physical strain.

Through it all, UCLA and national gymnastics fans alike hounded the program on social media regarding accusations of Waller's internal inaction. Even amid the high-points of a 198 at home against Cal, a first-place finish at the NCAA Raleigh Regional Semifinals and the emergence of underclassmen Jordan Chiles, Chae Campbell and Emma Malabuyo, the program was constantly under fire from a vocal portion of the general public.

With just three seasons to his name, Waller's tenure is now the shortest by a head coach in program history, immediately following 29 years by Kondos Field and 11 by Jerry Tomlinson.

The search for Waller's replacement will begin immediately, and it is set to be led by Senior Associate Athletic Director, Dr. Christina Rivera. This is in line to be the highest profile coaching search and hiring process since Martin Jarmond took over as UCLA's athletic director in July 2020, with the only other transition he's overseen being Margueritte Aozasa replacing Amanda Cromwell as UCLA women's soccer's head coach following her departure to the Orlando Pride in December.

"Chris played a big role in building this program's championship legacy the past 20 years," Jarmond said in a 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."

Rivera, a woman of color, and Jarmond, the first Black athletic director in UCLA history, leading the charge on the hiring front could align with the interests of the student-athletes who took issue with the way Waller handled certain issues this year.

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