By Gio Gennero | Sports Writer
Could you imagine going back-to-back-to-back-to — well, you get the point. Baylor’s acrobatics and tumbling head coach Felecia Mulkey has won every national title; all 11 of them and the last seven with the Bears. However, this goes deeper than just coaching, as Mulkey is actually one of the creators of the entire sport.
“There was no sport, it was just kind of a concept,” Mulkey said. “While at the University of Oregon, we created [acro and tumbling], myself and six or seven college administrators from across the country. It’s the only sport other than American football that was created at the collegiate level.”
After winning national championships in cheer, Mulkey said she wanted to combine the skills and components of cheer and gymnastics to create a sport that fit into the niche of both sports. Since 2008, Mulkey and others have been working to grow the sport to become an NCAA sport. As of 2020, the sport was named an emerging sport that’s dangerously close to becoming a championship sponsored NCAA sport.
“We started with six schools, and now we’re getting ready to announce our 50th school in the next couple of weeks,” Mulkey said. “To get off the emerging sport list and get NCAA championships, we need to have 40 schools competing and we currently have about 36. Ten or 11 schools have joined since January of this year and so by next year we should have 45 schools competing and we will be an NCAA championship sport by 2024.”
For this season Mulkey said the Baylor squad will look pretty different, especially after graduating 17 athletes. Mulkey said the team is working on new skills and the team’s performances will look quite different with different faces and techniques they have introduced this year. Despite a predominantly new group, Mulkey has said she is going to go for gold every year until she is topped.
“I’m going to keep trying to win until somebody beats me, I’m not going to lower the bar,” Mulkey said back in February. “ I told our group of coaches a few years ago, ‘Come and get me,’ that’s what this is all about.”
Coach Mulkey, who goes by “Fee,” has a background as an athlete in both cheer and gymnastics. She said this wasn’t an opportunity she had in college and it helped drive her to make the push to evolve this sport into something bigger than herself.
“We wanted a sport for women by women. There was a lot of motivation to create more opportunities for women,” Mulkey said. “What we did was create this place right in the middle of cheer and gymnastics so women could compete on behalf of their universities. My entire life for the past 13-14 years has been this. So yeah, I’m in it for the long haul.”