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DIII Management Council recommends two new emerging sports

The group voted to add women’s wrestling and acrobatics and tumbling to the emerging sports list

The sports of women’s wrestling and acrobatics and tumbling have each taken an important step in the process toward becoming official Division III sports.

At a meeting this week in Indianapolis, the Division III Management Council recommended the division add both to the emerging sports list for women, based on a recommendation from the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics. The Division III Presidents Council will review the proposal at its meeting next month. If it supports the recommendation, Division III members will vote on whether to add the sports to the emerging sports list at the 2020 NCAA Convention.

Both sports are on similar tracks in Divisions I and II.

“I think that we’ve moved to a place in the Division III membership where we value the participation and we acknowledge the challenges that have been historically placed in front of women wanting to participate in athletics,” said Stevie Baker-Watson, chair of the Management Council and DePauw associate vice president for campus wellness and athletics director. “These are two sports in which they’ve done their due diligence to create the type of opportunity that we think is consistent with an NCAA sport experience.”

The Committee on Women’s Athletics pointed to women’s wrestling’s rapid growth at the high school and college level and the diversity of its participants, among other factors, as reasons to add it to the emerging sports list. The committee saw potential in acrobatics and tumbling because the experience of athletes in that sport is comparable to that of current NCAA student-athletes, with many already fully integrated into athletics departments.

NCAA rules require that emerging sports must gain championship status within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list. If approved by members at the Convention, the sports would be added to the Division III emerging sports list as of Aug. 1, 2020.


Several Management Council members shared feedback from their conferences regarding issues with officiating. Because of a lack of funding for adequate training and game environments where officials can find themselves as the subject of derision from fans and coaches, the pool of talented officials has grown increasingly thin, several conferences noted. The division has set aside funds via its strategic initiative conference grant program to support officiating improvement, and NCAA national office staff and the Management Council plan to further explore ways to remedy the issue, noting the Association-wide context.

“The experiences provided to some officials are not professional,” Baker-Watson said. “And so all of us in Division III have some work to do, and we must continue to support the Game Day the DIII Way initiative.”  

Mental health services and resources

The Management Council recommended noncontroversial legislation that requires Division III colleges and universities to make information about mental health resources available to student-athletes. Similar legislation is being pursued in Divisions I and II.

The resources may be provided by the athletics department or the school’s health or counseling services department and should be consistent with interassociation consensus documents on the subject. The materials must include a guide to the mental health services and resources available to students and information about how to access them.

The Management Council recommended the proposal in concept at its spring meeting, but several members asked for more clarity regarding what these requirements might entail and what resources would be required to meet them. The proposal will be among the slate of noncontroversial legislation to be ratified by Division III members at the 2020 NCAA Convention.

Meeting with SAAC

The Management Council spent an afternoon this week with the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The groups discussed SAAC’s 2019-20 priorities: how to bolster sustainability efforts on campuses, its partnership with the Special Olympics and efforts surrounding inclusion and diversity. The council also engaged in roundtable discussions regarding the use of the NCAA transfer portal in Division III, which is available to the division’s student-athletes on a volunteer basis starting Oct.15. The division is hosting a webinar Aug. 6 to outline how to use the transfer portal, which is a compliance tool that provides academics and athletics information relevant to the transfer process. 

New Management Council leadership

Management Council members selected Heather Benning, executive director of the Midwest Conference, to be the group’s next chair, effective after the 2020 NCAA Convention. She now serves as vice chair. Gerard Bryant, faculty athletics representative at John Jay, will assume the role of vice chair.