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Rivals Bears and Ducks shake hands after the meet. Oregon Ducks acrobatics and tumbling takes on Baylor University at Matthew Knight Arena in Eugene, Ore. on March 3, 2019. (Sarah Northrop/Emerald)

As of Monday, June 3, the sport of acrobatics and tumbling officially received a recommendation from the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics to join the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program.

A vote between all three divisions of the NCAA will be held early next year to decide whether or not to add acrobatics and tumbling and women’s wrestling, which also received backing on Monday, to the emerging sports list. If passed, the sports will be added to the program on August 1, 2020.

“What this organization has accomplished is remarkable,” former Oregon coach and current Baylor head coach Felecia Mulkey said. “This sport didn’t even exist 11 years ago. It was created in the image of an NCAA sport and it was created for a student-athlete with the best interest of the student-athlete, specifically to be viable for these female student-athletes, and here we are with the NCAA backing and it’s unprecedented and I’m so excited about it.”

Once on the emerging sports list, each sport must expand to 40 varsity-level programs to move forward in becoming an NCAA Championship sport. As of now, acrobatics and tumbling is a varsity-level sport across 29 active programs and is governed by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association. 

“It’s surreal,” said Mulkey, who is also the NCATA’s director of expansion. “At one point in this process and in this journey, I would have thought of yesterday as the finish line. But once we got there, I realized it’s actually just the beginning. Now is when the real fun starts. Now is when the real growth will happen.”

Since the inception of acrobatics and tumbling in 2008, Mulkey has been at the forefront of the young sport’s momentum in hopes of becoming a nationally recognized sport across all three divisions.She said the NCAA backing, which she has been working toward since the first year of the sport, didn’t feel real to her until she read the CWA’s statement on why it recommended the sport:

“Acrobatics and tumbling leadership demonstrated and articulated how the experience of an acrobatics and tumbling student-athlete is comparable to the experience of an NCAA sport student-athlete and how acrobatics and tumbling student-athletes are fully integrated into athletics departments. Further, the existing organizational structure and bylaws supports efforts to integrate NCAA values and legislation into current operations. Finally, there is a commitment at the collegiate level to providing robust participation opportunities during the regular season and post season, including the national championship.”

The NCATA will continue to educate collegiate athletic departments and female athletes across the country in order to help spread the sport and allow for more schools to adopt it into their athletic programs.

“I had no idea that when I started this sport that it would turn into what it has,” said Oregon head coach Keenyn Won, who was coached by Mulkey at Oregon. “The athletes who have chosen to be a part of it have truly put a lot of trust into the sport of acrobatics and tumbling and now they’re being affirmed that we’re doing it for the right reasons to create an opportunity for female athletes across the country.”

Follow Maggie Vanoni on Twitter @maggie_vanoni