DU announced Gymnastics Coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart has signed a contract extension through 2026-27. While financial terms were not disclosed, it can be safely assumed that the Kutcher-Rinehart’s extension was in the works for some time, but it likely took DU’s new athletic director, Josh Berlo, to sign-off on the final deal.
The new contract rewards Kutcher-Rinehart for her 25 years of elevating Denver gymnastics into a nationally elite program, and is also an indirect nod to former DU Board of Trustees member Joy Burns, who championed both Kutcher-Rinehart and her gymnastics program for many years before Burns passed away in July of 2020.
The high water mark to date for Kutcher-Rinehart came in 2019 when she was awarded the WCGA National Head Coach of the Year for leading DU to a highest-ever fourth place finish at the 2019 NCAA Championships. More recently, she also led DU to its first Big 12 Gymnastics Championship, besting national powerhouse Oklahoma in 2021 in the conference tournament.
The Pioneers were loaded and expecting another great year in 2022, but were soon decimated with season-ending injuries to three of their top gymnasts, ruining what likely would have been top eight qualification, slipping to 13th place in the NCAAs. Among the student-athletes returning to the DU roster for 2023 are experienced graduate students Lynnzee Brown (a 2019 NCAA Individual Champion in Floor Exercise) and Alexandria Ruiz (a 2019 Second team All-American), both of whom received additional years of NCAA eligibility (medical redshirt and COVID-19, respectively).
DU Gymnastics averaged over 3,100 fans per home meet last season, and is now the second-highest attended home gate attendance program (after Ice Hockey at 5,500+ per game) at DU, passing third-place men’s lacrosse (at about 2,000 fans per game). Kutcher-Rinehart has spent many years cultivating the local youth female gymnastics community to attend DU meets in person, many of whom must driven (and paid for) by meet-attending parents.
The contract extension all but assures that Melissa and her husband, Todd (and family) will remain a part of the DU community. Todd remains Vice Chancellor for Enrollment at DU and recently held a nationally prominent role as the President for the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) . The duo brings huge benefits to the University of Denver community and with campus-wide impact, as well as national impact.
This extension also acts as an early win for Berlo to gain the further trust of his coaching staff, the backbone of DU’s athletic success. Readers may remember Berlo faced a legal firestorm at Minnesota-Duluth (in his his priorAD position) when he fired a highly-successful women’s hockey coach, Shannon Miller, and this extension allows him to demonstrate some tangible support for DU women’s athletics.
Finally, we’re hearing that DU Hockey Coach David Carle is in the process of receiving a new contract extension this offseason as a further reward for winning the 2022 NCAA title, and this extension of Kutcher-Rinehart should now keep two of DU’s highest-profile coaches well-rewarded. All in all, we applaud these great moves by DU Athletics, the University administration and the Board of Trustees for investing in our athletics program.
Let’s hope more new coaching contract extensions are coming for a number of deserving DU coaches who remain under-rewarded for their excellence and performance over the years in this financially-challenging climate. We hope Berlo can keep the rest of DU’s coaches happy and that fundraising and other new revenue generation under his watch will keep DU performing as one of America’s top athletic departments.