Some good news for a change: Two new sports (and they couldn’t be more different) have been named to the NCAA’s Emerging Sports for Women list.
Women’s Wrestling, and Acrobatics & Tumbling, having received the now begin the climb toward championship status. Expect an uptick in competitive events – and increased attention being paid to those events – as colleges adopt programs. In addition, it means increased opportunities for destinations with and owners of indoor arenas.
To officially be added as an Emerging Sport, legislation must pass through the governance processes in Divisions I, II and III. Divisions II and III had adopted the legislation regarding wresting and acro & tumbling at the NCAA Convention in January 2020. However, the DI Because the Division I process is different, and then because of COVID-19, the Division I vote was delayed.
That vote finally took place and on June 17, the NCAA was able to make the announcement. From here, both sports begin the process of working with schools to adopt programs as varsity sports. In order to be considered for the emerging sport program, a sport must have a minimum of 20 varsity teams and/or competitive club teams that have competed in a minimum of five contests. Once it is on the list, the sport must reach 40 varsity programs to move forward to the NCAA governance structure for championship consideration.
An exception to those rules are Division III sports, which require only 28 varsity programs for team sports, within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list. Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the membership minimum sports-sponsorship requirements and, in Divisions I and II, minimum financial aid requirements.
And both sports are well on their way, with their current governing organizations having gained a great deal of momentum already. According to the NCAA, the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association currently has 30 NCAA colleges and universities sponsoring the sport. The Wrestle Like a Girl organization, in conjunction with USA Wrestling, indicated there are 35 NCAA schools currently sponsoring the sport.
Once a sport reaches its threshold of 40 schools, says Michelle Brutlag Hosick, NCAA’s Associate Director of Communications, a new process starts.
“For a sport to become an NCAA championship, legislation making that happen would have to pass in all three divisions again. It’s not an automatic addition.”
Acrobatics & Tumbling, which is a discipline of gymnastics, combines skills sets currently practiced in artistic, acrobatic, trampoline, and power tumbling, all internationally recognized and competed disciplines of gymnastics. These skills sets are also utilized to create the athletic aspects of cheerleading.
Women’s Wrestling is a sport that has been growing tremendously at both the high school and college levels. The women’s side of the sport has been a focus of USA Wrestling since the 1980s and has logged consistent growth since 1990. The Olympic Games in 2004 gave female wrestling a big boost and the sport is now into its fifth Olympic cycle.
Even the economic impact of these events has been growing. In Placer Valley, California, the Women’s West Coast Tournament of Champions presented by Cliff Keen (a winner in the SDM 2018 awards program, Champions of Economic Impact in Sports Tourism), has experienced marked enormous growth. It began as a wrestling tournament for high school girls – a few college recruiters also attended – and it generated only 39 room nights. By 2016, a women’s collegiate division was added and growth skyrocketed. Now, the event sees competition from 64 high schools, 18 colleges, 10 states and Canada. Additionally, its timing (during shoulder season) provides much-needed business to area hotels and restaurants, resulting in slightly less than $150,000 economic impact and 123 room nights.
Other sports currently in the Emerging Sports program are equestrian, rugby and triathlon. In the past 21 years, some have become championship sports (beach volleyball, rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling), while others have been added to or removed from the list.