Francis Marion University Director of Athletics Murray Hartzler announced on Monday (Sept. 19) that the university will add Acrobatics & Tumbling as its 15th intercollegiate sport with competition beginning during the 2023-24 school year.

The new program will compete under National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) affiliation and Conference Carolinas.

FMU will join 11 other programs competing in Conference Carolinas next fall. Four Conference Carolinas teams were nationally ranked among the top 15 over the course of the 2022 spring season with two advancing to the NCATA National Championship field, where they won a pair of national titles in the six element of the acro event and in the open heat of the pyramid event.

Acrobatics & Tumbling is the evolution of different disciplines of gymnastics, which includes the athletic aspects of competitive cheerleading. The format was created at the collegiate level in 2009 to address the interests and abilities of young women competing in this skill set. Individuals and small groups execute acrobatic lifts, tosses, and tumbling.

The NCATA is comprised of members across NCAA Divisions I, II, and III, with 47 sponsoring programs nationwide. Conference Carolinas and the Mountain East Conference are the only NCAA conferences to presently sponsor the sport of acrobatics & tumbling. It was adopted as a NCAA emerging sport in all three divisions effective August 1, 2020.

Teams compete in meets from February to April to determine seeding for the NCATA National Championships.

A search for the head coach will begin immediately according to Hartzler, with the aim of having someone in place before the end of the year.

“We are excited to make this announcement,” Hartzler said. Our intent is to compete for conference championships as quickly as possible and to earn bids to advance to national championship competition.”

“The NCATA welcomes Francis Marion University to the Acrobatics & Tumbling community,” said Janell Cook, Executive Director of the NCATA. Francis Marion’s vision for the growth of the program is exciting, especially as they join a competitive group in Conference Carolinas. Their program will bring new competitive opportunities to the southeast region for young women competing in gymnastics and cheerleading.

“We’re thankful for the leadership of Conference Carolinas and the administrators of our member institutions for their support and their connection with peers regionally, and nationally, to share their experience of adding an A&T program. This is an incredibly exciting time as we progress towards NCAA championship status and we’re very grateful to have such collaborative group of administrators advancing opportunities for women.”

Francis Marion currently offers baseball, softball, volleyball, men’s golf, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, and men’s and women’s track and field.