Marsden, a bachelor at the time, began a monomaniacal quest to build a dynasty on the Salt Lake City campus. He devoured technical books on the sport, attended clinics and sought out gurus. "Greg was never afraid to say to an older coach, 'Hey, you know what you're doing, help me, teach me,' " says Ute meet director Anne-Marie Jensen, who has been involved with the program since its inception. "But he became so narrow-minded, like gymnastics was his life. But then, it was his job and his family."
Along the way Marsden polished the Knight routine. He kicked his athletes out of practices, berated judges, even pulled his team off the floor to protest an official's call.
"Greg can be hot-headed," says his wife, Megan, a former Ute gymnast. "People make comments like, 'He's such a jerk,' but they don't look at what he's fighting for." Yoculan says she knows what Marsden's motivation is: "When you get to know Greg, you realize that everything he does is for his athletes."
In January of 1993 Marsden found himself in a dispute with the National Organization for Women. A billboard (How many collegiate women's teams rent their own billboard space?) that showed team member Aimee Trepanier clad in a black leotard was causing rubbernecking delays on I-15. The local NOW chapter and YWCA thought the billboard, which gave the phone number to use for ordering season tickets, was too provocative.
"Ten championships and that was the first time we ever made the front page of The Salt Lake Tribune," says Marsden. "The facts are, gymnasts have fantastic bodies and they compete in leotards."
Bowing to the protests, university administrators pulled the billboard. Marsden responded last summer by accepting an invitation to help promote a local arts festival. Wearing a pink tutu, he appeared on the same billboard in the same pose under the heading WHAT IS ART?
"I've never respected authority for authority's sake," says Marsden. "I teach my athletes to be the same way." It's no surprise, then, that the Bob Knight of gymnastics was once kicked out of practice by one of his athletes.
In 1986 the Utes lost a meet at Oregon State, and the following afternoon Marsden, whose gymnasts are familiar with what they call his "funky" moods, wore a scowl to practice. "Why don't you just leave?" team captain Lisa Mitzel told him. Marsden bristled, but Mitzel did not bend. "If we came into the gym in a crappy mood, you'd throw us out," she said. "Why don't you get out?"
Stunned, but aware that Mitzel was correct, Marsden went home. "That's the wonderful thing about Greg," says Dr. Keith Henschen, the team's sports psychologist. "He sets his standards so high, but he's only human. And he recognizes it."
In April 1981 the Utes won the AIAW championship, their first national title. Marsden was 31. When he arrived home, alone, he set the trophy on the kitchen table and wept. "Bawled like a baby," he says. "I'd reached the pinnacle of my career, and I realized that I had nobody to share it with. It was the best and worst night of my life."