SAINT LEO, Fla. – Saint Leo University President Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese and Director of Athletics Francis X. Reidy have announced the addition of acrobatics & tumbling to Saint Leo University’s intercollegiate athletics program. The Lions will begin competition in 2020, as a nationwide search for the program’s inaugural head coach is underway.

Acrobatics & Tumbling, a discipline of USA Gymnastics, is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics and involves tumbling, tosses, and acrobatic lifts and pyramids. Teams participate in head-to-head competition and are scored in six events, including Compulsory, Acro, Pyramid, Toss, Tumbling, and Team.

“Saint Leo continues to offer more students with opportunities to enhance their academic journey with us by providing high level intercollegiate athletic experiences,” said Director of Athletics Francis X. Reidy. “This is an emerging sport and we look forward to being the first university in Florida to join this exciting competitive sport.”

One of the fastest growing sports among NCAA institutions, acrobatics & tumbling will be the 21st intercollegiate sport offered at Saint Leo and is the 12th offering in women’s program. Since 2016, 11 institutions spanning the country have added acrobatics and tumbling, nearly doubling the number of programs to offer the sport.

“I am pleased for Saint Leo University to be among the few and first NCAA Division II colleges to offer acrobatics and tumbling as a competitive sport. The addition will make Saint Leo an attractive option for women gymnasts who want to continue to compete at the collegiate level,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Senese, the university’s acting president.

Over 300 student-athletes competed in acrobatics & tumbling at the collegiate varsity level during the 2017 season. Current Division II members of NCATA include Alderson-Broaddus, Azusa Pacific, Belmont Abbey, Converse, Davis & Elkins, Erskine, Fairmont State, Gannon, Glenville State, Hawaii-Pacific, King, Limestone, Urbana, West Liberty and West Virginia Wesleyan. Saint Leo is the 16th Division II school — and 25th nationally — to sponsor the sport.

The National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA), which serves as the national governing body, is working with the NCAA staff and the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics to have A&T sanctioned as an emerging sport. Currently, all events are sanctioned through USA Gymnastics.

“We welcome Saint Leo University to the NCATA as the first program to be added in Florida,” said NCATA President Dr. Renee Baumgartner. “They are opening the door to new, varsity opportunities for young women in Florida and beyond to compete in an exciting sport and to pursue their academic dreams at an exceptional university. We look forward to supporting them as they grow their program.”

The competition season takes place between February and April with each team allowed to compete in a minimum of six contests and a maximum of 14. The NCATA National Championships are held annually in April on an NCATA member campus with event and team championships. Oregon hosted the first NCATA National Championship in 2011. Baylor is the four-time defending National Champion.

“Saint Leo’s announcement adds to the recent program additions in the southeast region,” said NCATA Executive Director Janell Cook. “This region, and the state of Florida within it, is one of the largest recruiting regions for potential student-athletes in Acrobatics & Tumbling. It’s exciting for those athletes and it’s affirming for all of our staff striving to help create opportunities for young women to compete and to have the life changing student-athlete experience that leads to success later in life for so many women.”