Cheer team disbanded due to insurance, Title IX, lack of practice facility

Oct. 6, 2014

Kyle Guthrie
[email protected]

Attendees of athletic events will have to look elsewhere for their cheers.

The cheerleading team, which had transitioned from a student club to classification under the athletic department last year, no longer exists.

Athletic director Steve Kirkham explained that there were three main reasons for the switch: in college, cheer doesn’t count toward Title IX, there was not an adequate place to practice and the needed insurance coverage was not financially feasible.

Large competitive cheer squads in high schools help fulfi ll Title IX. Many of the cheerleaders had competed in high school and their expectations did not align with the athletic department, according to Kirkham.

Many of the team expected the ability to perform in competitions and do stunts, while the athletic department saw the team in a more cheerleading role. “That’s their expectation, that wasn’t our expectation, that was the expectation of the young ladies who want to be cheerleaders at UCCS,” Kirkham said.

Competitive cheer at the college level requires a gymnastics-type facility, with jump pits and thick fl oor padding. Athletics would have needed to rent a facility, pay a professional coach and increase the insurance coverage to continue the team.

“It seemed like a pretty good idea at the time, but once we really got into the thick of it and I talked to the young ladies who were actually on the team, and realized what their expectations were … we had to decide if this is something we want to put that much money into,” Kirkham said.

Junior communication major Shaelyn Hood, who is now the marketing and promotions specialist for athletics, served as the cheer captain last year. Hood explained that the players understand the issue and that fans can make their own atmosphere.

“I’ve heard some people that were disappointed,” Hood said. “But I think ultimately it’s up to the fans and how involved they want to be. I think there’s a good future with our fan base.”

“I know some of the players were disappointed as well but they understand the circumstances,” she added.

School spirit was one of the roles of the cheer team, but Hood noticed that students stepped up at the regional basketball tournament, creating their own cheers.

“I know that was something that wasn’t really the cheerleaders’ strong suit,” Hood said. “We were more focused on routines and stuff like that.”

“A lot of fans stepped up and started creating their own chants,” she said. The cheer team chose not to continue as a student club. “It’s something that I definitely thought about,” said Hood. “But the same liability insurance still falls into place because we would be at athletic games.”

The team had several injuries, which would necessitate and increase in insurance cost had the team been continued. According to assistant athletic director for sports medicine Brian Hardy, two instances required the activation of emergency medical systems.

Insurance goes up and down based on injuries.

Hardy said that the cost of insurance for the athletic department went up between $1,700 and $2,000 when cheerleading was added.

The decision to drop the program was made before a new quote was received based on the injuries and continuation of the team. The rest of the teams in the athletic department have insurance.

“We had to reconsider as a department, let’s take another look at this, and see if this is something we really want to get into,” said Kirkham. “It doesn’t take very long for everything to change.”

Kirkham highlighted the fact that there can still be a cheer club, but that they would need to adhere to a policy developed by assistant athletic director for sports information Jared Verner and perform prior to the game.

The key difference is that the team would not fall under athletics.

“I don’t have to pay for injuries and that’s a big deal,” said Kirkham.

“Athletics now has that mentality that if anything is at athletics, it should be a part of athletics and under athletics insurance,” said Hood.

The decision was made to focus more on the pep band as they can practice anywhere and no insurance is required. Funding from athletics, between $10,000 and 12,000 according to Kirkham, is now allocated to the band.

Kirkham stated that the conversation began toward the end of basketball season when he realized that the team was down to six members at the regional tournament when the year had started with 24. “So that kind of got me asking a lot of questions, where did everybody go?” said Kirkham.

The next two or three months were used for discussion, including with students that had quit. Along with former vice chancellor for administration and finance Brian Burnett, Kirkham made the final decision.

“I just wasn’t willing to put the money in to get that going,” said Kirkham. “We tried something, it didn’t work, we’re not going to beat our head against the wall.”