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Wrestling Among NCAA Emerging Women’s Sports

Rules • June 17, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA (June 17, 2020) – Women’s wrestling and acrobatics and tumbling will be added to the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program in Division I, the Division I Council decided in a virtual meeting.

Members noted that some schools already have committed to adding these sports as part of their strategic plans for athletics and having these sports part of the emerging sports program could convince others to do the same.

“The Council acknowledged the need to give maximum flexibility to schools as they make decisions surrounding sport sponsorship,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletic director at Penn.  “Acrobatics and tumbling and women’s wrestling have both done everything required to be named to the emerging sports for women list, and some schools may choose to augment their programs with these new sports.”

The sports were recommended for the emerging sports program by the Committee on Women’s Athletics. The program is a pipeline supporting the advancement of women’s sports to NCAA championship status. The program also provides athletic opportunities for women and sport-sponsorship options for colleges and universities. Schools also may use an emerging sport to help meet minimum sports-sponsorship 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.

The National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association currently has 30 NCAA colleges and universities sponsoring the sport, which is a discipline of gymnastics involving tumbling, tosses, acrobatic lifts and pyramids. The Wrestle Like a Girl organization, in conjunction with USA Wrestling, indicated there are 35 NCAA schools currently sponsoring the sport. 

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.

Before the latest additions, the program had three sports: equestrian, rugby and triathlon.  Sports have 10 years to gain championship status or make meaningful progress toward that goal in order to remain on the list.