Over the summer, a challenge was brought in a Connecticut court when Quinnipiac University decided it was going to cut its volleyball program in favor of cheerleading because of budgetary reasons. The complaint, brought by members of the school’s volleyball team, argued that cheerleading could not be counted as a sport for Title IX purposes. Title IX, passed in 1972, reads ““no person in the United States shall on the basis of sex be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…” This is then further interpreted (and applicable to this article) by requiring equality at schools for both male and female sports. The issue here was whether cheerleading is indeed a sport. If it is, no problem. If not…
Federal District Court Judge Stefan Underhill decided it was not. By replacing volleyball with cheerleading, Quinnipiac was hoping not only to cut costs, but also to maintain the required number of women’s sports at the school. Based on the Judge Underhill’s ruling, this is no longer a legitimate switch. Cheerleading is not a “sport” for purposes of Title IX and thus, the school would need to keep volleyball or add another women’s sport (which would not be done for cost-cutting reasons).
The NCAA has agreed with this interpretation. It has not recognized competitive cheerleading as a varsity sport in the past. To be considered a sport, the activity must have coaches, practices, competitions, and a governing organization. One might say, “It seems to me this cheerleading has all of that.” In your eyes, maybe. To the judge, cheerleading “is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.” That sounds like something deserving of a failed basket toss. Maybe next time the ruling will be more successful, like this. Two points!
Keep cheering girls.