By Kyle Garratt
From injury and eligibility issues to "uniform malfunctions" and inappropriate pep rally behavior, cheerleaders are making news for reasons both good and bad. Take a look at some of the most interesting cheerleading stories from around the country.
Southern Methodist University cleared cheerleader Jamie Burns to fully participate with the team on Oct. 6. The university had told her in early September that the pacemaker she uses for a heart condition would keep her from cheering because her condition was not covered by the university's insurance policy.
A third-party review of Burns' condition and information from Burns' cardiologist convinced SMU Vice President of Student Affairs Lori White to reverse her decision. Burns' cardiologist had originally sent the university release forms clearing Burns to participate without restrictions and Burns signed a waiver of liability stating she would not sue SMU should something happen to her. SMU still had its concerns.
"It's not only the liability for this individual student," White told the Dallas Morning News. "For example, if she's at the base of a pyramid and something were to happen to her and she collapses, then she may also injure other students."
Burns was never at risk of losing her scholarship, but was limited to clapping and chanting on the sidelines while the review took place.
"Cheerleading has always been my life," Burns told the Dallas Morning News. "I've always pushed myself to get better at tumbling, jumps, everything."
Cheerleaders from Nacogdoches (Texas) High School stirred up controversy with a skit they performed in a pep rally last month. The NHS cheerleaders performed a mock execution-style slaying of fellow cheerleaders who were dressed to represent members of rival Center High School.
The fake rivals stormed the gym and took the NHS mascot hostage. Then NHS cheerleaders came to the rescue and made the bandits kneel before them as NHS cheerleaders held fake guns to the back of their heads. Music featuring the sound of gunfire played in the background as the prisoners fell dead. The skit was said to be well-received by the audience, but a petition opposing the promotion of guns at pep rallies began to circulate shortly after the rally. NHS cheerleading sponsor Kristen Jasper approved the skit prior to performance.
Controversy surrounding the incident intensified after the handling of coverage by The Dragon Echo, the school's student newspaper. The Daily Sentinel reports that NHS Principal Nathan Chaddick moved the story covering the skit from the first page of the student paper to the third page because he felt coverage of Hurricane Ike was more pressing. He also reportedly cut three paragraphs from an editorial questioning the administration's support of the skit, while leaving an editorial written by a cheerleader that defended the skit untouched. The Nacogdoches Independent School District released a statement apologizing for the skit and the editing of the student editorials.
"The Nacogdoches Independent School District does not advocate the use of weapons or violence under any circumstances," the statement said. "The selection of the skit for the pep rally was short sighted, inconsistent with the policy and practice of the school district, and was not sensitive to the times in which we live. The editing of the student editorial was ill advised. This has been a learning experience for everyone and we have all learned from the students. We apologize to the students involved and to those offended by the skit and the subsequent handling of the controversy."
University of Idaho cheerleaders donned their third different uniform of the season during an Oct. 4 football game against the University of Nevada after new uniforms the squad unveiled at the beginning of the year sparked criticism from fans that they were too revealing.
The cheerleaders wore volleyball shorts and football jerseys for a Sept. 13 game against the University of Western Michigan after ditching the controversial uniforms and before the new outfits arrived. Spirit squad coach Cassie Helm, who was responsible for the offending uniforms, resigned amongst the controversy.
"As a public institution, we are responsive to the community that supports us and we are stewards of our image," Shelly Robson, adviser to the school's Spirit Squad told The Associated Press. "The old uniforms were not appropriate for or reflective of Idaho."
This is the second uniform change of the season for the school. Football pants displaying "UI" across the seats also drew the ire of fans.
A 33-year-old woman was recently arrested for identity theft after she posed as her 15-year-old daughter in order to make the cheerleading squad at Ashwaubenon High School in Wisconsin. The woman tried out for the team and attended a pool party at the coach's house before the law caught up to her.
A cheerleading coach and study-hall teacher at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz. will keep her job despite being pictured on a Web site while drinking with her underage daughter, who is a freshman at the University of Arizona.
For tips on overseeing your cheerleading program, be sure to check out Support Needed, which appears in the Oct./Nov. issue of Athletic Management.
Kyle Garratt is an Assistant Editor at Athletic Management.