Cheerleading Not a Sport For Title IX

Despite the gymnastics and level of training required to make a collegiate cheer squad a federal judge ruled that competitive cheerleading is not an official sport that colleges can use to satisfy the gender-equity requirements of Title IX.  Therefore, Quinnipiac University of Connecticut cannot replace its women’s volleyball team with a competitive cheer squad.

The University, feeling budgetary pressure, sought to eliminate the women’s volleyball program in 2009.  Several volleyball players and their coach pushed back and sued, arguing that elimination of the program would violate Title IX.  The University countered with a proposal to add a competitive cheer program, arguing the squad would keep the school in line with requirements that men and women have equal opportunities in both education and athletics. 

According to Judge Stefan Underhill competitive cheerleading remains too underdeveloped and disorganized to be considered akin to “genuine varsity athletic participation”.  Under the rules and regulations of Title IX, an activity can be considered a sport only if it meets very specific criteria including having coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season and be part of an overall governing organization.  The activity also must have competition as its primary goal and not simply support other athletic teams.

The order acknowledges that this could change, leaving the door open for the development of competitive cheerleading as a legitimate varsity sport.  In fact, efforts have been underway for sometime to make competitive cheerleading a intercollegiate sport.  Quinnipiac and seven other schools recently formed the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association to govern and develop the sport. 

Implications Reach Beyond Just the Pom-Poms

Unfortunately though this is not just a case about trying to get recognition for an activity that many feel is athletic and competitive as nearly any other collegiate sport.  Quinnipiac was accused of, and found liable for, underreporting male participation and opportunities in athletics and over-representing those for women.  This cooking the books, in addition to the sustained and aggressive push to include cheerleading as an athletic opportunity for women in place of volleyball at least creates the appearance that the Athletic Department simply does not take Title IX seriously. 

Even worse, it suggests that those in charge still harbor deeply ingrained prejudices against female athletes.  As both a former competitive athlete and a former cheerleader I am not arguing against the inclusion of cheer squads as athletic teams.  I just don’t want that inclusion does not come at the expense of other already established athletic programs. 

photo courtesy of SD Dirk via Flickr


Angelic B.
Angelic B.7 years ago

i understand what the people who doent believe that cheerleading is a sport are coming from, i know it seems like a cheer teams main purpose is to support but its not its to compete and no we do not leech off of other games my cheer team has a 30 minute expo every week against another cheer team and we get judges to judge us add up the score and see who wins we have a bus just like other athletics and cheerleading does not depend on your looks i know i am not the most beautiful thing in the world and defintaly not the most beautiful in the school most of the pretty girls are not on the cheer team at my school so why should we say it is based on looks in every part cheerleading is a sport and i am sorry if you disagree!!

Scott Vonwolf
Scott haakon7 years ago

This is another case of unintended consequences. The Title IX was never funded by congress. College and universities had to eliminate men sports to accommodate women worse these are "sports" that are financial drains. The only two money making sports are men's football and basketball and for a few schools women's basketball. None of the other sports are money makers. In times of funding cuts no school can afford to waste money. But this foolishly written law does just that.
While it is understandable that they (the volleyball players) were upset they have opened a hole that may be soon filled. As competitive cheerleader does have a following it just must meet the guidelines. So they may have won the battle but could have lost the war.

Lika S.
Lika P7 years ago

Susan Q S. So are you saying that cheerleading is a sport, or a beauty pageant? You can't have it both ways.

They don't have to have weekly competitions either, aside from leading the cheers. Then at the annual event, it's all or nothing, or an all day event, like a conference. No. It's not a sport.

Do you know what my boys have to go through to play baseball as a team? They work hard, and they play hard, and put their hearts in it. Win or lose, they're all champions in MY book and they're only 4th & 5th graders.

J C B.
J C Brou7 years ago

Folks, the sooner the BCS goes away, the sooner the NCAA will adopt a national football championship. This in turn will bring about more regulation of all athletics, and thus more [forced] revenue sharing for women's and men's sports in the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA!

Petra Luna
Petra Luna7 years ago

How about a male cheering team for the womens' basketball teams? Then will it qualify?

Chrissie Wilson
Chrissie Wilson7 years ago

cheering for another sport is not a sport. i don't doubt they get they're very talented nor do i doubt they get hurt. i'm no saying what they doesn't require skills and training but it isn't a sport. two "sports" can't share the same field. they don't have seasons or game just for them. they leech off other teams for their space and their audience.

Emily P.
Emily P7 years ago

While cheerleading is very athletic and does require no small amount of skill, I am with poster Margaret on this; there are no ugly cheerleaders. When cheerleading is not discriminatory itself, then and only then will I consider it a valid sport.

Taylor M.
Taylor M.7 years ago

cheerleading is hard work!

Margaret Crowe
Margaret C7 years ago

To expand on my earlier point- no matter how great the talent and athletic ability require cheerleading is not a sport, because looks are as important as talent and athletic ability. Do you know any "sport" where having a big butt or a disfigured face (or even not being part of the "right crowd" in some cases) can keep you from participating regardless of your abilities? Show me a cheerleading squad where looks, popularity, and body type play NO ROLE and talent and athletic ability are everything and I will rethink my position. Until every squad is based only on ability it will not be a sport.

Liz F.
Elizabeth F7 years ago

thanks for the article. Cheerleading is as much a sport as golf and should be allowed to have it's own recognition.