INDIANAPOLIS -- The NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics (CWA) has recommended that all three divisions of the NCAA governance structure add acrobatics and tumbling to the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program. If adopted, the sport would join the program Aug. 1, 2020. Women's wrestling also received a recommendation from the CWA this morning.
The CWA identifies sports to be added to the Emerging Sports for Women program, which is a pipeline supporting the advancement of women's sports to NCAA championship status. The program also provides athletics opportunities for women and sport-sponsorship options for colleges and universities. Schools also may use an emerging sport to help meet membership minimum sports-sponsorship requirements and financial aid requirements.
A sport must have a minimum of 20 varsity teams and/or competitive club teams that have competed in a minimum of five contests to be considered for the emerging sports program. The sport must reach 40 varsity programs to move forward to the NCAA governance structure for championship consideration.
"On behalf of the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics, I would like to commend the leaders of both the acrobatics and tumbling and the women's wrestling communities and thank them for their extensive work to ensure young female athletes in these sports are able to continue their participation at the collegiate level," said Julie Cromer Peoples, committee chair and senior deputy athletics director for administration/senior woman administrator at Arkansas. "The CWA worked with representatives of both sports for several years to prepare them for advancement to NCAA emerging sport status, and we encourage all three divisions to support this expansion of opportunities for young women on NCAA campuses that choose to sponsor these sports."
The Committee on Women's Athletics commended acrobatics and tumbling for showing how its student-athletes already were integrated fully within athletics departments; how they are enjoying experiences comparable to those of other NCAA student-athletes; and how the sport could grow. The recommendation also shows that Acrobatics & Tumbling has met the objective criteria for emerging sport consideration and demonstrates the Committee's confidence that Acrobatics & Tumbling can achieve NCAA championship status.
Each NCAA division will now consider the CWA's recommendation. If adopted, Acrobatics & Tumbling would be formally recognized as an emerging sport effective August 1, 2020.
The National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) celebrates the recommendation by recognizing the work of the administrators, coaches, and student-athletes of NCATA member schools.
"The emergence and growth of Acrobatics & Tumbling is a direct result of the efforts of our determined administrators and coaches, as well as the student-athletes past and present who have competed in the sport," said NCATA President Dr. Renee Baumgartner. "Their belief and dedication have paved the way for a truly exceptional story in collegiate sports. We look forward to working with the NCAA, as we add new programs and increase the competitive opportunities for young women who dream of becoming a collegiate student-athlete."
Acrobatics & Tumbling was developed to provide fair and safe opportunities for young women to compete at the varsity intercollegiate level in skill sets primarily developed through youth participation in all disciplines of gymnastics or in cheerleading.
Thirty-one institutions sponsor Acrobatics & Tumbling as a varsity sport on their campus, including six that added a program in 2019. Twenty-nine of the 31 institutions that sponsor acrobatics and tumbling are members of one of the three NCAA divisions.
Continued growth across the country will remain a top priority for the NCATA as staff prepare for the next phase of the emerging sport process.
"It's an incredible feeling to be taking this next big step. I can't help but think of all the student-athletes and coaches who took a leap of faith, who have dedicated themselves to the growth of the sport, and who will certainly be celebrating the news today," said NCATA Executive Director Janell Cook. "The best is yet to come, and the Acrobatics & Tumbling community will be so encouraged as they continue the journey."
Gary Pine, Director of Athletics at Azusa Pacific University, echoed Baumgartner and Cook's comments.
"It's been a long 10-year journey but well worth it. The NCAA process strengthened the sport and assured acrobatics and tumbling a solid future," said Pine. "I'm proud Azusa Pacific was there from the beginning of the process. The executives and coaches should be very proud of their perseverance, creativity, and flexibility in creating a new sport for women."
The Emerging Sports for Women program has been in existence since 1994. In the past 21 years, several sports have reached championship status, including beach volleyball, rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling. The program currently has three sports: equestrian, rugby and triathlon.
--Gail Dent, NCAA
(Editor's note: Adrian College has sponsored Acro since 2014 and Women's Wrestling since the 2015-16 campaign.)
Adrian College Women's Wrestling Coach Cliff Cushard Quotes: "This is a great day for wrestling. Women's wrestling is the fastest growing high school sport in the U.S. and this news should help boost that growth even more. Now girls will be able to dream of being NCAA champions-- something that wasn't possible before today's news. Many girls wrestling in high school didn't have an end goal in sight so they would often quit the sport they loved to switch to a sport that allowed them to have a chance at being an NCAA athlete. In the 2020-21 season all of our wrestlers will be NCAA athletes and, with the likely addition of an NCAA invitational tournament, we will start adding NCAA All-Americans to our program's history. Adrian College has been one of the pioneers in NCAA colleges with women's wrestling programs. With four seasons under our belt we have improved every season. We fully expect that trend to continue for many years to come as we continue to recruit talented student-athletes. Finishing 16th in the country in the Women's College Wrestling Association last year--the seventh-best (among) NCAA-affiliated programs--we should be one of the favorites to do well in the inaugural NCAA tournament. I know that our coaches and athletes are very excited for this opportunity and look forward to making our place in the history of this great sport!"
Adrian Coach Acrobatics and Tumbling Coach Ellen Barker Quotes: "It's not every day that one gets to be a part of history in the making. Acrobatics and tumbling is the first newly created sport in 100 years to be considered for NCAA eligibility. It took 10 years, a lot of trial and error, but here we are at Adrian College, making history. We are proud that in Adrian's eighth season competing (in 2020-21), we are able to honor our program's proud alumni and recognize our current and incoming student-athletes as true NCAA athletes. Our team at Adrian College has been preparing for this development since its inception. We have grown into a competitive program in the NCATA, besting D-II and NAIA schools, and earning our first winning record this past season. Our sights have been set to be the best D-III acrobatics and tumbling program in the country, and with the backing of the NCAA, we are able to work toward that reality. We are proud to announce a talented incoming freshman class of 14 student athletes from all over the country. We welcome gymnasts, cheerleaders, acrobats, divers, and dancers, fulfilling our role in the NCATA to create new NCAA opportunities for female athletes, just as we set out to do from day one. Our organization has worked hard for this development, and Adrian College acrobatics and tumbling is proud and humbled to be a part of the NCAA."
Adrian College Athletics Director Michael Duffy Quotes: "I am super-excited for women's sports across the national NCAA landscape and, more importantly, for our programs here. This is a great opportunity for both national governing bodies, the WCWA and NCATA, and these organizations have worked hard with the NCAA to make this happen. There's still a lot of work to do to reach 40 schools to conduct a NCAA championship in a given sport, but with 30 institutions apiece Women's Wrestling and Acro are both getting to that 40 minimum. For our student-athletes, they will have a great opportunity to play in the not-too-distant future for a true NCAA national championship."