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Is Cheerleading a Sport?
June 22, 2010 6:37 AM   Subscribe

Five members of the Quinnipiac University women's volleyball team, and the team's coach, have sued the school for dismantling the team to use the money for a cheerleading squad. More on the legal background of the case. Quinnipiac has been also been accused of cooking the roster books--triple counting track/field athletes--to inflate the number of female athletes.

Cheerleading in the Context of Title IX and Gendering in Sport


The Women's Sports Foundation on cheerleading, and the definition of "sport."


The lawsuit also highlights controversy about determining how to cut athletic costs in tough economic times:

As Colleges Cut Athletics, Title IX Creates an Injustice to Men

NCAA's Brand: Don't fault Title IX for future cuts
posted by availablelight (125 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Catch 22: to claim the University is discriminating against women, you must make the sexist claim that cheerleading is somehow of less value than volleyball.
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:50 AM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


That "Gendering in Sport" article is fascinating. While I agree it perpetuates some unpleasant stereotypes, and can be brutally exclusionist, it seems unreasonable to argue that many of these squads are not comprised of serious, dedicated athletes. I'm not really invested enough in the team sport mindset to argue whether or not it should be classified as a sport, though.

I am kind of disappointed that this post was not some kind of viral marketing for Sue Sylvester.
posted by elizardbits at 6:50 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Now we are coming into questions about the purpose of sports. I dare say it has little to do with promoting good health and family entertainment, and I shudder to think which contests some of my colleagues would substitute their fanaticism for, if we didn't have sports.
posted by Brian B. at 6:54 AM on June 22, 2010


From the breathless and misleading WaPo piece.
"With endowments shrinking, donations falling and operating budgets squeezed, colleges and universities face great pressure to cut costs. Athletic departments are an obvious target. But, troublingly, men's sports are disproportionately bearing the brunt."



yawn. call me when they cut football, which is always and everywhere the biggest money suck and cause of gender non-parity in college and high school sports.
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:56 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


But, troublingly, men's sports are disproportionately bearing the brunt.

This is indeed troubling because opportunities for men to participate in sports are far and few between and I think we can all agree that male students, as a general group, spend FAR too much time in the classroom as it is.
posted by DU at 7:01 AM on June 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


I shudder to think which contests some of my colleagues would substitute their fanaticism for, if we didn't have sports.

If war is diplomacy by other means, surely soccer (both international and club) is war by other means.
posted by kersplunk at 7:02 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


yawn. call me when they cut football, which is always and everywhere the biggest money suck and cause of gender non-parity in college and high school sports.


Indeed.

posted by availablelight at 7:04 AM on June 22, 2010


you must make the sexist claim that cheerleading is somehow of less value than volleyball.

Kind of like how it is sexist to say that nurses are less valuable than doctors?
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 7:06 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


call me when they cut football, which is always and everywhere the biggest money suck and cause of gender non-parity in college and high school sports.

Does college football lose money? I always guessed that football and basketball made money in absolute terms or more than made up for their costs by being good PR.
posted by pracowity at 7:08 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't understand the issue. Why would they dismantle one women's team for another, and claim they had to because of Title IX? Am I missing something?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:09 AM on June 22, 2010


I don't understand the issue. Why would they dismantle one women's team for another, and claim they had to because of Title IX? Am I missing something?
School officials testified in last year's hearing that the benefit of a competitive cheer team is more athletic opportunities for women at lower cost. Quinnipiac's cheerleading team cost the school about $1,250 per roster spot, the school testified last year. The team currently has 30 members. The volleyball team cost more than $6,300 per team member with 11 players in 2008-09 and a budget of more than $70,000, according to the testimony.
http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=10972950
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:11 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Catch 22: to claim the University is discriminating against women, you must make the sexist claim that cheerleading is somehow of less value than volleyball.

It has nothing to do with value, but the definition of what a sport is, especially in the context of deciding to classify an existing or proposed (cheaper) program like cheerleading, drill team, or even the marching band as a sport, for the purpose of eliminating something like volleyball, women's crew, etc.

From the (linked above) Women's Sports Foundation article:

Compared to boys, girls still enjoy 1.3 million fewer opportunities to participate in high school and college sports. Few schools are in compliance with Title IX and most are looking to increase girls' sports participation in order to meet the letter and spirit of the law. In this period of economic difficulty, many schools would like to take existing and already funded extracurricular programs for girls and find a way to put a different label on them in order to make them athletic teams or sports. It seems obviously transparent and unethical to do so when danceline, drill team, cheerleading, baton twirling or the marching band are clearly not fulfilling the definitional requirements of sport.
posted by availablelight at 7:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Thanks, 2bucksplus. So this has to do with money, and not sexism.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:14 AM on June 22, 2010


Why can't it be both? :)
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:16 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


If you count by the number of injuries sustained, cheerleading is a sport.
posted by adipocere at 7:17 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Does college football lose money? I always guessed that football and basketball made money in absolute terms or more than made up for their costs by being good PR.
posted by pracowity at 10:08 AM on June 22 [+] [!]


For the most part, college football does lose money (sorry, cache link only available), except for the very very very top teams.

also, let us examine the purpose of college athletics - is it to make money like a business? or is it to extend real opportunities for higher education and life improvement to student athletes. I'm not asking rhetorically.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:24 AM on June 22, 2010


also also - in many/most cases, money made by men's football and basketball goes back into - surprise - men's football and basketball. it doesn't fund scholarships in the math department.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:29 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Football is the problem. It usually is a money maker for schools, and even if it doesn't make money directly, it makes money indirectly by wooing alumni and raising visibility of the school.

The best thing to do is to exempt football from Title IX mathematics. There is no women's sport that compares, so in order to meet the ratio schools have to offer 3-4 women's sports just to balance out football.
posted by spaceviking at 7:29 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


2009 USAToday on athletic vs university funding issues at Cal
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:30 AM on June 22, 2010


The school says cheerleading is a competitive, athletic activity that creates more opportunities for women than volleyball

I'm sorry but I don't think that shaking your ass and doing the splits while wearing sexy costumes and grinning enthusiastically in order to rouse the crowds could be called a sport nor do I believe that creates more opportunities-- unless your goal is to train more pole dancers. Volleyball requires strength, stamina, quick reflexes, hand-eye coordination and good teamwork. Cheerleading requires a sexy body, flexibility and cheerfulness, as well as an ability to memorize dance sequences. One is a sport, the other is a display.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:32 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


your solution is to just accept that women get to be in less sports, spaceviking? Except that girls are different, and their opportunities are different and not try to make them equal?
posted by garlic at 7:34 AM on June 22, 2010


Toodleydoodley--Pay attention to the article, it says that 56% of football programs make money to pay for themselves. The extra goes to fund the athletic department.

Somehow this article presupposes that athletic departments should be operating at a profit in Universities. That is not a realistic expectation, and the ONLY way to do that is through football and basketball.

So cutting football actually puts the Athletic dept. in a bigger hole, most of the time.
posted by spaceviking at 7:35 AM on June 22, 2010


you must make the sexist claim that cheerleading is somehow of less value than volleyball

For one thing, volleyball -- for both sexes -- is in the Olympics; cheerleading isn't. Whether or not cheerleading qualifies for Title IX, I think you could make the claim that volleyball is of more value than cheerleading without it being necessarily sexist.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Women's Sports Foundation link also asserts, quite reasonably, that if the cheerleading team is entirely a competitive cheerleading team that goes out and competes against other cheerleading teams on a frequent and regular basis, then it is a sport. If you've ever seen a cheerleading competition, I'm sure you'll agree (so long as you also agree that gymnastics is a sport.)

If the cheerleading team is mostly on the sidelines of another competition, though, that isn't a sport by any reasonable definition of the word.

If Quinnipiac is trying to pretend that the second kind of cheerleading team is the first kind, then they deserve to get sued by the (former) volleyball team. However, if their cheerleading team is entirely a competitive one, then the volleyball players are wrong; in that scenario, the school is actually trying to make more opportunities available by promoting a cheaper sport that therefore allows more participants.

But I cannot tell which one of these possibilities is the case without more information that has been given here.
posted by kyrademon at 7:38 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I'm saying football is a different animal and should not be compared to lacrosse, swimming or baseball/softball. It probably shouldn't even be a NCAA sport, and an argument could be made to make it semi-professional.
posted by spaceviking at 7:40 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the true purpose of Title IX was to increase athletic opportunities for women, it should have come with increased public funding attached. Achieving equality by reducing opportunity for male athletes just to get the numbers to balance doesn't benefit anyone.
posted by rocket88 at 7:41 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Toodleydoodley--Pay attention to the article, it says that 56% of football programs make money to pay for themselves.

actually it implies 56 percent can pay their football operating costs from football revenues, which you got from inverting the stated statistic that 44 percent cannot. If that's the best argument I had to offer my board I think I'd get into another business.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:42 AM on June 22, 2010


One is a sport, the other is a display.

You do realize that competitive cheerleading is more-or-less another term for synchronized team gymnastics, right? What you describe is the sidelines cheerleading in a pro-football/basketball game.
posted by griphus at 7:44 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


For one thing, volleyball -- for both sexes -- is in the Olympics; cheerleading isn't.

Football isn't in the Olympics. If that's the metric we're using, then college athletics becomes a profoundly different place, and probably not a better one for the non-revenue sports. Softball isn't in the Olympics, either, and there's a lot of women's softball teams at the university level. Baseball, golf, lacrosse, rugby... none of them are Olympic sports anymore. Want to cut those out of collegiate programs?
posted by Etrigan at 7:49 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]





[from wikipedia]
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a United States law enacted on June 23, 1972. ... The law states that

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...
—United States Code Section 20,

In 1979, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare under Jimmy Carter's administration issued a policy interpretation for Title IX, including what has become known as the "three-prong test" of an institution's compliance.

  • Prong one - Providing athletic participation opportunities that are substantially proportionate to the student enrollment, OR
  • Prong two - Demonstrate a continual expansion of athletic opportunities for the underrepresented sex, OR
  • Prong three - Full and effective accommodation of the interest and ability of underrepresented sex.
  • So it seems like schools can replace expensive sports with cheap sports as long as they can find atheletes to fill the spots. But if they can't get a 85 woman ping pong team, they can't say that's their equivelant to the football team.
    posted by garlic at 7:50 AM on June 22, 2010


    If the cheerleading team is mostly on the sidelines of another competition, though, that isn't a sport by any reasonable definition of the word.

    If Quinnipiac is trying to pretend that the second kind of cheerleading team is the first kind, then they deserve to get sued by the (former) volleyball team. However, if their cheerleading team is entirely a competitive one, then the volleyball players are wrong; in that scenario, the school is actually trying to make more opportunities available by promoting a cheaper sport that therefore allows more participants.

    But I cannot tell which one of these possibilities is the case without more information that has been given here.


    I was able to find this:

    Do you enter competitions? The Quinnipiac University Cheerleaders have been competing for the past six years. However, our main goal is to support both the Men's and Women's basketball teams.

    so it may not be an either/or situation.
    posted by availablelight at 7:51 AM on June 22, 2010


    Seconding griphus and clarifying my previous point -- if you haven't seen a serious cheerleading competition, and are arguing it isn't a sport, then you don't know what you're talking about. That's not a snark; you just don't. It's like arguing that figure skating isn't a sport because you've seen ice skaters tottering around a local rink and there doesn't seem to be much to it.

    It is possible, I suppose, to have seen such a competition and still not think it's a sport, the same way some people get hot under the collar about all "judged" sports (such as gymnastics, diving, and figure skating), as opposed to races, measured sports like shotput and polevaulting, and scoring sports like ping-pong and baseball.

    But if you think cheerleading can't be a sport because it's just about jumping up and down in a sexy costume ... seriously. Watch a competition. You will be surprised.
    posted by kyrademon at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    I'd propose one far simpler solution for collegiate athletics funding :

    Any revenue generated by a collegiate activity must be remanded to the state, or else support pure academic scholarships. An exception shall be granted for individual activities that forgo all funding from tuition, fees, and the state.

    Sports are simply not revenue positive for the vast majority of school, but they're an effective way for "laundering" educational funds from tuition, government, etc. into money the president can spend on pet projects, embezzlement, hookers and blow.

    If you cute this money laundering loophole, you'll see all these problems disappear overnight.
    posted by jeffburdges at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2010


    ...actually, the "team" fielded this year to eventually replace volleyball was the competitive cheer team, which is distinct from their cheerleading squad. Opening up even more opportunities for women to wear short skirts and NOT play field hockey!
    posted by availablelight at 7:55 AM on June 22, 2010


    >If you count by the number of injuries sustained, cheerleading is a sport.

    I still don't understand this rationale. There are more unintentional fall injuries in children every year than there are in sports. Does that mean that falling is a sport too?

    I consider competitive cheerleading a sport, not so much the "rah rah yay" non-competitive squads...but I've never understood rationale like this either way. But I think some marching bands definitely fall into the "sport" category, as well, which I know most don't agree with...*shrug*
    posted by kro at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    I don't see how cheerleading is less of a sport than gymnastics. They both require significant amounts of coordination, athleticism, precision and poise. They both get scored by judges. They both are seen as female activities while in fact men can and do participate in each.

    I think of it this way, can the cheerleaders refuse to cheer for the football team because they need to practice? Are there regular matches between squads from other universities in your conference? Are there meets just like in gymnastics?

    In other words does the cheerleading squad behave like a real sports team, like gymnasts, or like an extracurricular squad that occasionally performs in competitions, like a debate team?
    posted by oddman at 8:00 AM on June 22, 2010


    If the universities and the guys of Metafilter had their way, pole dancing and stripping would be considered "sports" for Title IX purposes. "Dude, like, Cam Whore is totally a sport, right?"
    posted by happyroach at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2010


    Availablelight, after looking at your "primary goal is to support the basketball team" link, I was all set to argue that Quinnipiac was in the wrong and they weren't doing it as a sport, because even if they competed some, it wasn't the focus.

    However, if, as you then state in your next link, the team in question is *specifically* a competitive cheer team which is entirely distinct from the sidelines squad, then I have to come to a completely different conclusion.

    I understand why the volleyball players are upset and angry, but I think they're in the wrong here if that's the case. In fact, I think by making the argument they have, they're being snobs.
    posted by kyrademon at 8:03 AM on June 22, 2010


    Football isn't in the Olympics. If that's the metric we're using ...

    It's one possible metric to assess the importance or significance of one sport over another, or to determine whether to fund it. If I understand it correctly, the main argument in favour of cheerleading appears to be that it doesn't cost very much. That's another metric.

    Want to cut those out of collegiate programs?

    Hardly. But I'd rather see a collegiate women's sports program that included volleyball -- or lacrosse, or softball -- than one that basically focused on cheerleading because it was cheaper -- a cheap way to run up the numbers for Title IX.

    I also think that cross-country skiing is better than ice dancing, that the triathlon is better than modern pentathlon, and that timed races and scored matches are better than judged competitions. You may disagree. You may even be right.
    posted by mcwetboy at 8:04 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Penn & Teller: Bullshit! just had an episode about this. Cheerleading is a business controlled by a monopoly, Varsity.com. They sell uniforms, supplies, run training facilities & camps, sponsor competitions that charge admission to teams & spectators alike with upwards of 60 "national" titles awarded every year. It's a massive scam & puts the kids in actual danger because it's unregulated & safety is put rather low on the list of priorities. If it was made an official sport Varsity's empire would crumble & hundreds if not thousands of cheerleaders would not be injured, maimed or even killed for their activity each year.
    posted by scalefree at 8:07 AM on June 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


    Except [sic] that girls are different, and their opportunities are different and not try to make them equal?

    Women and men are different, in case you missed the memo.

    "try to make them equal".
    posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2010


    It isn't the sole rationale, kro. Give me a little credit. I bring it up because people often dismiss cheerleading as identical miniskirts and a few high kicks, just a lightweight distraction. The teamwork and timing involved impress me. Some young women in cheerleading train very hard to do complex physical maneuvers requiring strength, dexterity, and flexibility and pull injury rates that are a little shocking when I look at the numbers. At least at the high school level, the young women I tutored who did cheerleading had about as many practices and injuries as the young men I tutored had hockey practice and attendant injuries and were at least as fit.

    Granted, there's no ball involved, but however trivially it began, it looks like a sport now to me.
    posted by adipocere at 8:15 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I'm saying football is a different animal and should not be compared to lacrosse, swimming or baseball/softball. It probably shouldn't even be a NCAA sport, and an argument could be made to make it semi-professional.

    Wait, why is football such a special animal, so much so that it can't be compared to other competitive team sports for which the object is to move a ball around in a specific fashion to score points? Just because of the moneymaking issue?

    My (Division III) college didn't have a football team.
    posted by desuetude at 8:16 AM on June 22, 2010


    I don't see how cheerleading is less of a sport than gymnastics.

    Physically, cheerleading might be more athletic than volleyball, but cheerleading is also a lot like dancing around. Is dancing a sport? The winter Olympics have various skating competitions that are all basically dancing around on ice. But if that stuff's a sport (and I guess people generally agree that it is), then so is ballroom dancing, isn't it? And if ballroom dancing is a sport, then maybe so are a lot of other kinds of dance. And blah blah blah.

    Maybe they should save the sports money for stuff that isn't judged on aesthetics (you make a goal or you don't, and no one cares how pretty you looked doing it) and let the various kinds of dancers compete for the arts money.
    posted by pracowity at 8:18 AM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


    kyrademon, in response to your comment, yeah, that's why I wanted to immediately correct my mistake of quoting from the cheerleading page, once I unearthed the "competitive cheer" page. So maybe the press hasn't been entirely fair at characterizing the proposed replacement as a "cheerleading team" since Q-pac already has a traditional cheerleading program, and what they are elevating to varsity is this different organization. I wonder if the differences between the two programs will be fully outlined in upcoming trial days.

    I guess I'd be more inclined to be for it, if you could prove to me that, like traditional sports, young women could still make the squad if they were physically unattractive, "unfeminine", athletic but overweight/oversized, etc.
    posted by availablelight at 8:23 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    But if you think cheerleading can't be a sport because it's just about jumping up and down in a sexy costume ... seriously. Watch a competition. You will be surprised.

    It's in the title: Cheerleading, psyching up a crowd to cheer on the real team-- you know the one actually competing in a sport. I have no doubt that gymnasts are good cheerleaders, but why aren't they competing in gymnastics? If they want me to take them seriously, then cheerleading would have to be called by a different name such as...synchronized gymnastics or something.

    How important are looks? Can you get on the team if you have muscular thighs or really short hair? Do they compete in full make-up? Are they wearing boots? It's not a sport if you have to be pretty.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


    Maybe they should save the sports money for stuff that isn't judged on aesthetics (you make a goal or you don't, and no one cares how pretty you looked doing it) and let the various kinds of dancers compete for the arts money.

    Can you easily draw a line between the strict requirements of "form" required of, say, a gymnast or a platform diver, and that of a figure skater? Are those arts or sports?

    The only thing that makes an activity a sport is that we award points for performing a given task, in a given way, and/or by a given time. Competitive cheerleading would qualify.

    However, if we are going to have competitive cheerleading, concerns about its dangers to the athletes, the monopoly of it by one company, etc., are something that needs to be investigated and regulated.
    posted by emjaybee at 8:33 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Damn you, Sue Sylvester!
    posted by w0mbat at 8:37 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I guess I'd be more inclined to be for it, if you could prove to me that, like traditional sports, young women could still make the squad if they were physically unattractive, "unfeminine", athletic but overweight/oversized, etc.

    Yeah, that's what I was thinking as well. I was watching some of the NCAA softball finals recently while I was at the gym, and I was marveling at the strong, powerful - and completely un-cheerleader-like - bodies that these athletes had. They were tall and muscley, some of them on the heavier side, and I can't see that body type allowed to participate in competitive cheer teams that value a more uniform look for their squad.

    Not every athlete wants to participate in a gymnastics/dance oriented sport, so taking away volleyball and throwing a skirt at them and saying, "Hey, you could totally do this! It's all sport!" strikes me as profoundly unfair for these athletes. I think competitive cheerleading is indeed a sport, but it annoys me to see these types of dance-related sports (which put a premium on form and body type) privileged over other sports for female athletes.
    posted by Salieri at 8:54 AM on June 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


    It seems to me that High School and College football (and basketball) are essentially training programs for the professional teams. Whether they are "cost neutral" for the institution or not, they do have the unfortunate effect of distracting students involved with the programs from their studies (which is not a big deal for those who make it to the professional leagues, but a crippling waste for the majority who do not). It also allows "Big Sports" to get trained players to pick from without having to take responsibility for career-ending injuries that happen before the player starts their actual "career."
    posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


    The best thing to do is to exempt football from Title IX mathematics. There is no women's sport that compares, so in order to meet the ratio schools have to offer 3-4 women's sports just to balance out football.

    That would be the best thing for members of the smaller male sports like gymnastics or tennis that usually get cut due to Title IX. Not sure how it would help out the goals of Title IX.
    posted by smackfu at 9:20 AM on June 22, 2010


    I'm sorry but I don't think that shaking your ass and doing the splits while wearing sexy costumes and grinning enthusiastically in order to rouse the crowds could be called a sport nor do I believe that creates more opportunities-- unless your goal is to train more pole dancers.
    Ok, seriously, on what planet is that not fucked up and deeply sexist?

    I don't have any great love for cheerleading, but if you think it's shaking your ass and training to be a pole dancer, that reveals vastly more about you than about cheerleading.
    posted by craichead at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


    "call me when they cut football, which is always and everywhere the biggest money suck and cause of gender non-parity in college and high school sports."

    I don't know if it is still going on but when my wife was getting her sports medicine masters she had to travel out of state to train with a football team because her school had cut football. It was pretty obvious if not actual expressed policy that the reason for cutting football was money first and title IX compliance a close second. Cutting football immediately put this school into compliance.
    posted by Mitheral at 9:52 AM on June 22, 2010


    Salieri's argument is the same that the men who's sports are getting canceled make. Someone in great shape for men's wrestling or volleyball isn't necessisarily going to be able to translate that into football or basketball, just like women's softball or volleyball players aren't the same people who would be doing gymnastics typically.
    posted by garlic at 9:57 AM on June 22, 2010


    Physically, cheerleading might be more athletic than volleyball, but cheerleading is also a lot like dancing around. Is dancing a sport? The winter Olympics have various skating competitions that are all basically dancing around on ice. But if that stuff's a sport (and I guess people generally agree that it is), then so is ballroom dancing, isn't it? And if ballroom dancing is a sport, then maybe so are a lot of other kinds of dance. And blah blah blah.

    Take care not to slip and fall hard on your ass on that slope.
    posted by splice at 10:09 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    If the universities and the guys of Metafilter had their way, pole dancing and stripping would be considered "sports" for Title IX purposes. "Dude, like, Cam Whore is totally a sport, right?"

    As a "guy of Metafilter", this shit sucks.
    posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:12 AM on June 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


    It's not a sport if you have to be pretty.

    I think this is absolutely on the money as far as sports cladistics go.

    I'm not sure the most relevant question here is whether or not cheerleading can be considered a sport, though. I think part of title ix's purpose is actually to do away with irrelevant dilemmas like that, because framing the issue that way makes it seem as though some sports are essentially male and some are essentially female, and that the proper goal is to ensure that "female" sports are honored and promoted. That seems antithetical to the spirit and the letter of the law, not to mention the positive social trends of which it is a part.
    posted by clockzero at 10:13 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    If you count by the number of injuries sustained, cheerleading is a sport.

    So is ballet. Actually, in all honesty, I can't figure out why ice dancing (or even regular figure skating) is a sport and ballet isn't.

    Competitive cheer squad, aka synchronized team gymnastics, definitely has the potential to be a sport IFF the Varsity corporate monopoly is broken.
    posted by KathrynT at 10:49 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]



    Ultimately, the issue is that there does not exist infinite funding for all programs. So, the choice of which programs can get funded becomes a value proposition - is this worth more than that; is this program a better value than that - that sort of thing.

    Well, when you start doing that, then things get contentious even when you can only assume the best of intentions.
    posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:53 AM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    Actually, in all honesty, I can't figure out why ice dancing (or even regular figure skating) is a sport and ballet isn't.
    I'm not sure you can be an art and a sport at the same time. The point of a judged sport is to do things that will appeal to the judges, and that often isn't going to be the thing that's the most beautiful or innovative or expressive.

    I actually sometimes wish that figure skating existed as an art, because I think some figure skaters would be really amazing to watch if they were freed from the rules and scoring system of competitive skating.
    posted by craichead at 11:18 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    The best thing to do is to exempt football from Title IX mathematics. There is no women's sport that compares, so in order to meet the ratio schools have to offer 3-4 women's sports just to balance out football.

    That would be the best thing for members of the smaller male sports like gymnastics or tennis that usually get cut due to Title IX. Not sure how it would help out the goals of Title IX.


    Yeah, I agree that eliminating the 500-pound gorilla would be nice if it allowed a place at the table for the less...stadium-worthy male sports. But I'm not gonna cry a river over schools offering multiple women's sports to balance out the massive machine that is college football.
    posted by desuetude at 11:24 AM on June 22, 2010


    So, the choice of which programs can get funded becomes a value proposition - is this worth more than that; is this program a better value than that - that sort of thing.

    Make all sports club sports. Remove all school funding, period.

    I've always found the argument that sports translates into alumni dollars somewhat specious anyway.
    posted by madajb at 11:26 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    It's not a sport if you have to be pretty.

    why not?
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:35 AM on June 22, 2010


    Make all sports club sports. Remove all school funding, period.

    I'll see you guys in the next obesity thread.
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 11:35 AM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Make all sports club sports. Remove all school funding, period.

    So basically, you want to return college athletics to where it was a hundred years ago. I'm sure that it won't end up with massive amounts of corruption and fatalities this time, though. Good plan.

    I've always found the argument that sports translates into alumni dollars somewhat specious anyway.

    Look up T. Boone Pickens. Sports does translate into alumni dollars, even if only via ticket sales. The University of Michigan packs more than half a million people into its stadium every year for football. Hell, even if you only count the student price, that's $20 million, and that's not even counting TV and conference money.

    And if those alumni dollars aren't regulated and supervised by the university, then they'll still be there, via envelopes and no-show summer jobs and loans to players' families. You think it happens a lot now? Try stopping it after you've told the colleges they can't spend any money on it -- which includes funding for compliance officers.

    Not to mention the fairly large number of kids who won't be able to go to college on non-revenue-sport athletic scholarships.
    posted by Etrigan at 11:48 AM on June 22, 2010


    When the University of Oregon re-introduced baseball, they needed to add a women's sport to comply with Title IX. They chose "Stunts and Gymnastics."

    Eyebrows were raised, and even the campus paper wondered aloud whether Competitive Cheerleading is in fact a sport.

    From the Daily Emerald article:

    "The OCR (Office of Civil Rights) has taken then position that cheerleading squads, for example, are support services and not varsity programs."

    posted by Danf at 11:53 AM on June 22, 2010


    I'm sure that it won't end up with massive amounts of corruption and fatalities this time, though. Good plan.

    Because somehow no school funding translates into no governing body.
    Sure. Why not?

    Look up T. Boone Pickens.

    You'll forgive me if I don't get too excited over a football stadium and an "athletes village".[1]
    The University near me has a big time donor as well.
    So far we've gotten a basketball stadium, an athlete "academic center", a lacrosse field, and various other sports endeavors.

    Sports does translate into alumni dollars, even if only via ticket sales. The University of Michigan packs more than half a million people into its stadium every year for football. Hell, even if you only count the student price, that's $20 million, and that's not even counting TV and conference money.

    According to this, Michigan athletics contributed a whole $2 million to the general fund. Compared to a total budget of over $1 billion, I'm not sure it would be missed.

    I'm not saying sports don't have their place in colleges and school pride.
    But so long as government money is involved, issues like the one in the FPP will continue to be a problem.

    [1] Looks like the geology department got a nice chunk of cash, though donating to a geology department is probably less philanthropy than self-interest.
    posted by madajb at 12:14 PM on June 22, 2010


    so it may not be an either/or situation.

    That's true of marching band, too. There are competitions. It requires stamina and practice. But it also wouldn't exist except for the football team.
    posted by krinklyfig at 12:16 PM on June 22, 2010


    When the University of Oregon re-introduced baseball, they needed to add a women's sport to comply with Title IX. They chose "Stunts and Gymnastics."

    They also dropped men's wrestling.
    posted by madajb at 12:17 PM on June 22, 2010


    Because somehow no school funding translates into no governing body.

    Did you miss the part where I pointed out that "no school funding" also means "no compliance officers"? Governing bodies require funding, even if only salaries for the guys who govern. Where does this money come from, in your no-school-funding world? Where do you think it comes from now?

    According to this, Michigan athletics contributed a whole $2 million to the general fund.

    To the general fund, yes. But how many non-revenue-sport athletes got to go to a pretty good school because of the money that football makes and churns back into the athletic department to pay out as scholarships?

    If you kill school funding of athletics, it's not going to hurt Michigan or Florida or USC. It's going to hurt Division III basketball players, who know damn well they're not going to get into the NBA, but they can at least get a degree out of it. It's going to kill women's athletics everywhere. The vast majority of college athletes never make a dime at their sport, except for the college degree that they can use for the rest of their lives.
    posted by Etrigan at 12:25 PM on June 22, 2010


    Perhaps the reason cheeleading costs so much less for the school is that the girls end up paying out of pocket for a large part of their gear. At least the ones at my school did. They also had to pay for cheerleading camp before they could even try-out.

    Now that they have their own uniforms, hair ties, and pom poms (and duffel bags), the only other cost is one teacher to sponsor them and direct dance moves and some royalties for dance moves and music tapes.

    The logical jump at this point is to say that volleyball would be cutting poorer girls off from the chance to participate in a sport (and I'm not going to say that cheerleading isn't a sport. Even the sideline football game variety involved strength, balance, and rhythm. Girls were doing backflips and pyramids and all sorts of stuff for pep rallies)

    (I was never a cheerleader, nor was I really good friends with any of them, but the above seemed to be the case)
    posted by rubah at 12:39 PM on June 22, 2010


    Did you miss the part where I pointed out that "no school funding" also means "no compliance officers"? Governing bodies require funding, even if only salaries for the guys who govern.

    There are many organizations out there funded by dues paying members.
    I fail to see why club athletics can't follow the same model.
    For that matter, your T. Boone Pickens could contribute $400 million to the Oklahoma Inter-Collegiate Athletics League.

    But how many non-revenue-sport athletes got to go to a pretty good school because of the money that football makes and churns back into the athletic department to pay out as scholarships?

    335., near as I can tell.

    It's going to hurt Division III basketball players, who know damn well they're not going to get into the NBA, but they can at least get a degree out of it.

    Division III schools do not offer scholarships in basketball so your hypothetical student isn't really going to notice a change.
    posted by madajb at 1:15 PM on June 22, 2010


    I fail to see why club athletics can't follow the same model.

    Because they've already done that, and it didn't work. For those sports where people will some day make millions -- football and basketball -- there will be corruption. How do you propose to keep it out? How do you propose to keep the next Reggie Bush's parents from getting a house and a car as collateral on his future earnings?
    posted by Etrigan at 1:23 PM on June 22, 2010


    That's true of marching band, too. There are competitions. It requires stamina and practice. But it also wouldn't exist except for the football team.

    Absolutely false. Drum corps has absolutely nothing to do with football but is basically marching band on crack. And here is a video that ESPN did during...quarterfinals? a few years ago showing the physical strain during a show.
    posted by kro at 1:35 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Because they've already done that, and it didn't work.

    I'm not sure I follow.
    You are suggesting that the source of funding is the only thing keeping corruption from completely taking over school athletics?

    For those sports where people will some day make millions -- football and basketball -- there will be corruption. How do you propose to keep it out?

    If you take the big money out of college sports, I would imagine the NFL and NBA would develop a minor league system rather than using colleges for that purpose. The truly talented players would migrate there, leaving club sports to actual students.

    How do you propose to keep the next Reggie Bush's parents from getting a house and a car as collateral on his future earnings?

    Other than, I suppose, sullying the good name of my alma mater, I'm not sure why I would care.
    I mean, if someone wants to bribe Reggie Bush's parents so he'll play for a standing room only crowd of 4000, then more power to them, I suppose.
    posted by madajb at 2:01 PM on June 22, 2010


    Ok, seriously, on what planet is that not fucked up and deeply sexist?
    I don't have any great love for cheerleading, but if you think it's shaking your ass and training to be a pole dancer, that reveals vastly more about you than about cheerleading.

    I'm sure you think you are being profound, but that tired old trope is an empty rhetorical device and particularly meaningless in this case, when we are all sitting around on our asses, spouting off our personal opinions.

    As a woman and as the mother of a 17 year old girl, I don't think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders is anything to aspire to. I don't want my girl relegated to the side cheering on the "real" athletes, being oogled by a bunch of dads, when she could be out competing herself.

    It's not a sport if you have to be pretty.

    why not?


    Because then it is a beauty pageant.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 2:29 PM on June 22, 2010


    Because then it is a beauty pageant.
    There is nothing wrong with beauty pageants, but a beauty pageant component doesn't make the activity solely a beauty pageant.

    As a woman and as the mother of a 17 year old girl, I don't think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders is anything to aspire to. I don't want my girl relegated to the side cheering on the "real" athletes, being oogled by a bunch of dads, when she could be out competing herself.

    You are indulging in ignorance. It isn't remotely difficult to watch some videos of serious cheerleading competition. It is extremely athletic, involves both genders, and is clearly a sport.
    Leading cheers at a football game is different, yeah, but there is nothing wrong with that either.
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:49 PM on June 22, 2010


    SLoG: By your descriptions it seems that you're familiar with NFL-type cheerleading but have never seen college-level cheer squads. They're not the same thing.
    posted by rocket88 at 2:50 PM on June 22, 2010


    It's going to hurt Division III basketball players, who know damn well they're not going to get into the NBA, but they can at least get a degree out of it. It's going to kill women's athletics everywhere.

    Sports scholarships are a piss poor way of funding education for the underprivileged. Particularly in women's sports, scholarships go to students who have the means to get good at handball or crew or competitive cheerleading in high school. Give the scholarships based on need instead, and let kids play club sports because they're fun.
    posted by l33tpolicywonk at 2:58 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    Absolutely false. Drum corps has absolutely nothing to do with football but is basically marching band on crack.

    We didn't have drum corps at our high school. And the marching band would indeed be ... "disbanded" if the school canceled football, I'm almost positive marching band would go as well. But I'm speaking of my high school, and I graduated in 1988. I do know there is no drum corps even today.
    posted by krinklyfig at 3:17 PM on June 22, 2010


    If you take the big money out of college sports, I would imagine the NFL and NBA would develop a minor league system rather than using colleges for that purpose.

    Cutting off university funding from athletics will have exactly the opposite effect. As your link showed, at the really big schools, athletics does make a profit, enough to give back to the general fund. So your suggestion seems to be to destroy the athletic departments where money flows the other direction, which is to say the ones where corruption isn't the issue. You want to stop Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Columbus State from having athletic departments, not the University of Texas-Austin or Syracuse.

    I mean, if someone wants to bribe Reggie Bush's parents so he'll play for a standing room only crowd of 4000, then more power to them, I suppose.

    You think it'll stay at that? First it's 4,000, then it's 8,000, and after a few years, you're right back to where you started. You're asking to make a huge wholesale change in the way that a huge amount of America thinks about sports, and you think they'll just go along with it because it'll mean that the Lynn University women's softball team won't be the cesspit of graft it used to be?
    posted by Etrigan at 3:17 PM on June 22, 2010


    Anyway, drum corps is still not a sport, sorry (I say this as a proud band geek). The classification of cheerleading as a sport is for financial reasons, and this is getting a little far afield.
    posted by krinklyfig at 3:21 PM on June 22, 2010


    As a woman and as the mother of a 17 year old girl, I don't think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders is anything to aspire to.
    The Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders? Seriously? You think what we're talking about here is the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders?

    Here's a cheerleading video. It may be hokey, but it's hard to argue it's not athletic.

    Incidentally, my friend who was a serious high school competitive cheerleader now has a PhD and a good job as a college professor. You daughter could find worse role models.
    posted by craichead at 3:28 PM on June 22, 2010


    Secret Life of Gravy: "As a woman and as the mother of a 17 year old girl, I don't think the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders is anything to aspire to. I don't want my girl relegated to the side cheering on the "real" athletes, being oogled by a bunch of dads, when she could be out competing herself.

    With all the respect due, SLoG: what rocket88 said.

    What the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders do, and what the elite competitive cheer squads do at the university level, have almost nothing in common but their DNA. Continuing to equate the two is starting to border on willfully digging your heels in and refusing to accept the nuances of the situation here.

    It made a good bon mot, but "being pretty" is not a competitive advantage in modern-day cheer. Compact figure and superior gymnastic ability is everything. As long as ice dancing, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics floor routines—in which aesthetics, costumes, and crowd-pleasing are competitive elements—remain Olympic events, it's hard to denigrate competitive cheer with a straight face.

    The uniforms that college squads wear for competition provide far more coverage than the "spankees" that are de rigueur for women's volleyball games.

    "Ass-shaking," sexy dancing, and the bedroom eyes that you seem to want to ascribe to cheerleaders are nowhere to be found on any high school or college campus that I've seen in the last twenty years—and as a life-long Texan, I have seen hundreds of squads in action. Not just tarted up and melodramatized for television, but at competitions and performances.

    Don't get me wrong: overall, I think that Quinnipiac is likely taking the cheap way out, and both their volleyball team and competitive cheer squad have a fair case here.

    But it rankles me to see anyone who is involved with anything that can be labeled "cheer" in any way, compared openly to the sexpots who are hired to waggle their boobies dance for pro sports teams, or likened to strippers. (It's especially ironic since most college cheer squads are co-ed.)

    It's 2010. Cheer has changed. While "leading the crowd on to root for the 'real' athletes" is still one small element of the sport, it's much, much bigger and more evolved today. Please don't let Budweiser commercials be your only source material for what cheerleading means to the college and HS athletes who participate in it.
    posted by pineapple at 3:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    it's hard to argue it's not athletic.

    It's very athletic.

    But it doesn't have to be un-athletic to make it problematic, at the very least, to replace a team sport like volleyball with competitive cheer.

    Watching that video, I see that it incorporates a lot of dance aspects, and that the women's moves are sometimes overtly sexual. Their outfits are also very flashy and revealing, and it would be difficult to argue that that's only for practicality, given that the male outfits cover their whole bodies. The participants are all around the same size and shape, which makes me suspect that a uniform look -- that matches one particular ideal -- is pretty important.

    I would be absolutely furious if my opportunity to participate in sports like volleyball was being taken away and this presented to me as an alternative. I want to compete, but I don't want to dance and gyrate my hips while wearing gold lamé hotpants. I find it offensive that this would even be considered to be equivalent to a sport where sexuality and attractiveness are completely irrelevant.

    I don't have a problem with it being called a "sport" except that this label is being used to pretend that the very real differences don't exist. That a woman's chance to do cheer somehow makes up for her lack of a chance to do volleyball.

    (For the record, I do have an issue with artistic gymnastics for as long as male and female gymnasts are held to different standards with regards to things like dance moves in floor routines. However, it seems to me like even though gymnastics has these issues, there is a heavier emphasis on the athletic side of the sport than in competitive cheer.)
    posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:00 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


    Also, because I forgot to put it in: I don't have anything against competitive cheer. In fact, I think it's pretty cool, and am glad that something better has grown out of cheerleading.

    What I have a problem with is only being treated as equivalent replacement to the opportunities of sports like volleyball, where athleticism and not display is the only important aspect. Someone who goes into competitive cheer is expected, on top of having athletic skill, to display their body in an entirely different way--a way more similar to someone who is going into dance.
    posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:10 PM on June 22, 2010


    Watching that video, I see that it incorporates a lot of dance aspects, and that the women's moves are sometimes overtly sexual. Their outfits are also very flashy and revealing, and it would be difficult to argue that that's only for practicality, given that the male outfits cover their whole bodies.
    That's true, and it would be great if it were different. But it's also true of, say, figure skating and gymnastics.
    The participants are all around the same size and shape, which makes me suspect that a uniform look -- that matches one particular ideal -- is pretty important.
    (For the record, I do have an issue with artistic gymnastics for as long as male and female gymnasts are held to different standards with regards to things like dance moves in floor routines. However, it seems to me like even though gymnastics has these issues, there is a heavier emphasis on the athletic side of the sport than in competitive cheer.)
    Interesting. My friend who was a cheerleader got involved in cheering because her gymnastics coach told her when she was 12 that she was too big to be a serious gymnast. You can be 5'6" and be a cheerleader. It's really difficult to be a top-level gymnast if you're that height. I think if anything, the body-type requirements in gymnastic are much more rigid than those for cheering. It's just that most people take that to be natural, because gymnastics is seen to be a real sport, and we know that real sports have certain body requirements. There aren't a lot of short basketball or volleyball players, for instance. Cheerleading is not seen to be a real sport, so people assume that the body types involved are about aesthetics, rather than the demands of the sport.
    posted by craichead at 4:30 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


    Cheerleading is not seen to be a real sport, so people assume that the body types involved are about aesthetics, rather than the demands of the sport.

    I think it is more properly categorized as a type of dance. It's expressive and creative. True, gymnastics has these qualities, but cheerleading as competition is not well established yet, at least not enough to be considered a sport. There is nothing wrong with a dance program at a school, but it should not replace volleyball. And I'm not sure why the distinction matters so much to the people who are defending it. Arts and sports should both be well supported, ideally. I still can't see this as a good alternative to volleyball. Seems like a cop out.
    posted by krinklyfig at 4:36 PM on June 22, 2010


    I think it is more properly categorized as a type of dance.
    I don't agree with that, but let's say it's true. What would be so horrible about dancers getting scholarships? Why is an amazing athlete more entitled to go to college than an amazing dancer is?
    True, gymnastics has these qualities, but cheerleading as competition is not well established yet, at least not enough to be considered a sport.
    It seems to me that cheerleading competition is perfectly well established. By what measure do you think it's not well-established?
    Arts and sports should both be well supported, ideally.
    Baaaah ha ha ha. Baaaaaaaaaaah ha ha ha ha ha.

    Sorry! Was that meant to be funny?
    posted by craichead at 4:46 PM on June 22, 2010


    "I would be absolutely furious if my opportunity to participate in sports like volleyball was being taken away and this presented to me as an alternative. I want to compete, but I don't want to dance and gyrate my hips while wearing gold lamé hotpants. I find it offensive that this would even be considered to be equivalent to a sport where sexuality and attractiveness are completely irrelevant. "

    As a non sports guy I'm constantly amused by the relative merit and ranking of any particular sport against the field and directly leading from/to that that men's football and basketball command so many more dollars than any other sport. And of course there are those who think practically nothing is a sport.

    krinklyfig writes "And I'm not sure why the distinction matters so much to the people who are defending it."

    Title IX has made what activities are included in the set of sports legally important.
    posted by Mitheral at 5:12 PM on June 22, 2010


    But it's also true of, say, figure skating and gymnastics.

    I really don't agree that cheer is as focused on athletics as gymnastics. Athleticisicm is required, but dance and display are obviously hugely important, much more so than in gymnastics. And looking at that clip, I simply don't see the variation in body types that I do in gymnastics. Any sport advantages certain traits, but compare Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson--very different. So yes, the uniformity does give the impression that a certain body type is preferred, beyond just certain traits being advantages.

    Figure skating is probably a better comparison, although at least in figure skating, the competitors have more control over their costumes and choreography. They don't have to be the spoilsport on the team who doesn't want to bare her midriff or shake her hips. Regardless of that, I would be angry if volleyball was cut to support figure skating too.
    posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:21 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I really don't agree that cheer is as focused on athletics as gymnastics. Athleticisicm is required, but dance and display are obviously hugely important, much more so than in gymnastics.

    Dance isn't athletic?

    Look, this isn't an agree or disagree thing. Look up the rules for cheerleading competitions and look up the rules for a gymnastics floor routine and they look almost exactly the same. There is some scoring for the artistry of dance but in both cases the technical execution of the routine is a far bigger chunk of the score.

    The body type requirements for top level gymnasts are so intense major nations falsify the ages of competitors because younger tends to be better. There are similar requirements for cheerleading since it is mostly just gymnastics. Look, I say this as a fatty, you don't want a fatty on top of your pyramid.
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2010


    >> Kutsuwamushi: "The participants are all around the same size and shape, which makes me suspect that a uniform look -- that matches one particular ideal -- is pretty important.

    The "particular ideal" is low center of gravity and compact figure, exactly the same physical ideal for women's gymnastics and for women in figure skating. You can try to shoehorn this into a beauty thing, but it's really nothing to do with it. There is a reason that cheerleaders and gymnasts are often called "cute" and "perky"—and it's because they are very small, not because they look like Mary Ann from Gilligan's Island.

    >> Kutsuwamushi: "I would be absolutely furious if my opportunity to participate in sports like volleyball was being taken away and this presented to me as an alternative."

    I would too. But not because there is something inherently less athletic about cheerleading or inherently more noble about volleyball. This is the key point that I feel all the "cheerleading = SEX!!1!!" "cheer ≠ sport!!!" advocates are missing, and which is not helpful to the volleyball team.

    What is being done to the Quinnipac women's volleyball team is wrong because they deserve to play regardless. There is a history and a precedent for the women's volleyball team, and they don't deserve to be disbanded for some cheaper, new team that allows the school to dodge Title IX rules.

    But that's wrong whether the sport is competitive cheer, women's discus, women's dressage, or artistic gymnastics complete with glittery leotards and ribbons on sticks.

    For everyone here to keep getting hung up on their particular cultural impressions of what competitive cheer is (to wit, some actual remarks in this thread representing "what cheer is": gold lamé hotpants... gyrating your hips... it's all based on attractiveness rather than athleticism and skill... shaking your ass and doing the splits while wearing sexy costumes and grinning enthusiastically... to train more pole dancers... all that's needed is a sexy body and cheerfulness... Can you get on the team if you have muscular thighs or really short hair? Do they compete in full make-up? Are they wearing boots? It's not a sport if you have to be pretty. Being oogled by a bunch of dads.)

    ...dances (ahem) around the actual problem.

    >> Kutsuwamushi: "I don't have a problem with it being called a "sport"

    Sure. The quotation marks indicate your sincerity.

    >> Kutsuwamushi: "...except that this label is being used to pretend that the very real differences don't exist. That a woman's chance to do cheer somehow makes up for her lack of a chance to do volleyball."

    >> Salieri: "Not every athlete wants to participate in a gymnastics/dance oriented sport, so taking away volleyball and throwing a skirt at them and saying, "Hey, you could totally do this! It's all sport!" strikes me as profoundly unfair for these athletes."

    This is where we're all missing the big glaring point. Quinnipiac isn't saying, "Hey volleyball players! Put on these sexy skirts and this whorish makeup and dance around like strippers! It's just like volleyball."

    They're saying, "Cheer is also a sport! And also, cheer is much cheaper than volleyball and we don't want to pay for both."

    Which sucks, I allow. But I don't think that MetaFilter does any service to the notion of equality when we ostensibly show support for the volleyball players by scraping up culturally backward ways to tear down the cheerleaders.

    >> krinklyfig: "There is nothing wrong with a dance program at a school, but it should not replace volleyball. And I'm not sure why the distinction matters so much to the people who are defending it. Arts and sports should both be well supported, ideally. I still can't see this as a good alternative to volleyball. "

    Because of [see above]. Some of us are saying, "volleyball and cheer are both sports that college women should have the chance to participate in, if the school sees fit and there is the interest, but wrecking one for the sake of the other is wrong."

    And others are saying, "Cheerleaders are dirty whores and those nice, noble volleyball girls shouldn't be turned into whores."

    Which creates some serious head-scratching. That's the only place that I am making the distinction. I think that what the school did was wrong, and I think that the volleyball players should sue, but I think it's weak for the volleyball team.... and for all of us.... to make the defense at the cultural expense of another group of competitive female athletes.

    Even if their particular flavor of competition isn't as old or as recognized or happens to be in a national transition.
    posted by pineapple at 6:05 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    > As long as ice dancing, synchronized swimming, and gymnastics floor routines—in which aesthetics, costumes, and crowd-pleasing are competitive elements...

    As a gymnastics fan, I need to be pedantic for a moment: aesthetics, costumes, and crowd-pleasing are not competitive elements in women's artistic gymnastics. The casual viewer might assume they are, but they're not. Judging is a lot more complicated than that.

    > Some of us are saying, "volleyball and cheer are both sports that college women should have the chance to participate in, if the school sees fit and there is the interest, but wrecking one for the sake of the other is wrong."

    Thank you! Not everyone is designed to do every sport. I relate to cheerleaders and gymnasts because we're the same size. I did other sports, but I wouldn't have made the volleyball team anywhere because I'm five feet tall and not good at volleyball. There's nothing wrong with supporting different sports for different athletes.
    posted by swerve at 6:43 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


    As a gymnastics fan, I need to be pedantic for a moment: aesthetics, costumes, and crowd-pleasing are not competitive elements in women's artistic gymnastics. The casual viewer might assume they are, but they're not. Judging is a lot more complicated than that.

    Just out of curiosity, then -- why do they seem to spend so much time and effort on the aesthetic and costume parts, if they're not really being judged on them? (It's obvious why they want to be crowd-pleasing -- human judges will alter their judging if they hear cheers vs. boos, even if only subconsciously and only a little bit.)
    posted by Etrigan at 7:57 PM on June 22, 2010


    Because of [see above]. Some of us are saying, "volleyball and cheer are both sports that college women should have the chance to participate in, if the school sees fit and there is the interest, but wrecking one for the sake of the other is wrong."

    And others are saying, "Cheerleaders are dirty whores and those nice, noble volleyball girls shouldn't be turned into whores."


    Please be careful with this. You quoted me and seem to be implying I'm saying something about cheerleading = whores, which couldn't be further from the truth.
    posted by Salieri at 8:11 PM on June 22, 2010


    Salieri, technically I quoted everyone in this thread who has directly or implicitly said that cheer isn't a real sport due to the aesthetic/artistic/dance elements and/or brought up sex appeal and sexuality.

    The only point I intended to attribute to you specifically was the one where I specifically quoted you—with regard to your suggestion that eliminating volleyball means the volleyball players are expected to actually go on and become cheerleaders.

    To my read, there have been some comments more focused on the sex appeal angle than others, and you weren't one of them. I apologize if you inferred that I thought otherwise.
    posted by pineapple at 9:45 PM on June 22, 2010


    I don't agree with that, but let's say it's true. What would be so horrible about dancers getting scholarships? Why is an amazing athlete more entitled to go to college than an amazing dancer is?

    Um, nothing, I would love to see more dance scholarships as a concept. But if money is earmarked for supporting opportunities for women to play sports in college, I don't think it should go to the dance program instead.
    posted by desuetude at 9:53 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


    You want to stop Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Columbus State from having athletic departments, not the University of Texas-Austin or Syracuse.

    Not true. I don't mind if they have an athletic department.
    I just don't want to pay for it.

    First it's 4,000, then it's 8,000, and after a few years, you're right back to where you started.

    Maybe, but I doubt it.
    As I said, without scholarships, university funding, and nationwide play, I'd expect the major sports to create their own minor leagues outside of the university system.
    After all, without a 100,000 person stadium on school property, it's somewhat hard to hold a game that size.
    posted by madajb at 10:28 PM on June 22, 2010


    The only thing that makes an activity a sport is that we award points for performing a given task, in a given way, and/or by a given time. Competitive cheerleading would qualify.

    And so would everything else.

    If you want to offer equal opportunity, give all sports funding to activities that have machine-measurable goals (ball in basket = 0 or 1, etc.). Skating from A to B in a certain time is a machine-measurable goal. Skating from A to B in a certain time gracefully, in an attractive outfit, with an inspiring musical accompaniment is a game that can be gamed, because now someone is making subjective decisions that can be swayed by other subjective input. Is she the right nationality? Right color? Does she have a compelling personal story? Is the crowd behind her? Does she get good television ratings? Does she look humble enough? Is she crying? Does she hug her coach? Is she as cute as a button? What's her hair like? How about her teeth and legs? Is she the kind of gal a judge would just love to fuck?

    And of the sports that qualify above, give funding only to the limited-contact or non-contact sports. If an integral (non-punishable, maybe encouraged) part of the game is punching, ramming, and slamming other participants, you can raise your own money. Don't ask the university to pay for it.
    posted by pracowity at 12:22 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


    A report on testimony in the trial on whether not cheerleading is a sport.
    posted by availablelight at 5:08 AM on June 23, 2010


    And others are saying, "Cheerleaders are dirty whores and those nice, noble volleyball girls shouldn't be turned into whores."
    To my read, there have been some comments more focused on the sex appeal angle than others,


    Good God, you are the only one calling cheerleaders dirty whores. For one thing I don't equate having sex with being dirty. I also don't think displaying your body for fun is being a whore: girls using sexual moves and sexy costumes are so prevalent in our society it would be hard to find a young woman who doesn't get the message that her worth is tied into how sexy she is. That's what makes the sports arena so great-- girls can use their bodies to achieve some goal other than attracting the opposite sex.

    As long as cheerleading continues to be about short shorts and pretty legs and big smiles it doesn't qualify as a sport in my mind. As long as the cheerleaders are expected to cheer on the other teams, they aren't athletes, they are eye candy.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:53 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


    "And of the sports that qualify above, give funding only to the limited-contact or non-contact sports. If an integral (non-punishable, maybe encouraged) part of the game is punching, ramming, and slamming other participants, you can raise your own money. Don't ask the university to pay for it."

    FYI: baseball is considered to be a contact sport by the NATA.
    posted by Mitheral at 6:45 AM on June 23, 2010


    give all sports funding to activities that have machine-measurable goals

    Considering all the vitriol regarding red cards in the World Cup, soccer is clearly out.
    Then we've got the perfect game that was robbed last month, so no baseball.

    Every game that isn't a direct race or strength competition is not purely machine-measurable. And even races I'm not sure about, given some of the ice-skating takedowns.
    posted by Lemurrhea at 6:47 AM on June 23, 2010


    As I said, without scholarships, university funding, and nationwide play, I'd expect the major sports to create their own minor leagues outside of the university system.

    And as I said, the nationwide play and de facto minor-league systems for football and basketball already pay for themselves at the places that really matter -- Louisiana State and Duke and Oregon don't get any of "your" money anyway.
    posted by Etrigan at 7:37 AM on June 23, 2010


    Yes, in a sport such as tennis or baseball there will be refs making rulings on whether a line was crossed and so on, and sometimes they will make mistakes, but obviously that's not nearly the same as a row of judges setting out to rate a performance on things like visual effect, crowd appeal, choreography, and overall impression.
    posted by pracowity at 7:49 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


    As long as the cheerleaders are expected to cheer on the other teams, they aren't athletes, they are eye candy.

    Dude, I seriously cannot tell if you are just being deliberately disingenuous. People have stated numerous times throughout this thread that not all cheerleaders are merely standing on the sidelines cheering on the "real athletes"; many of them are competitive cheer squads, some of which exist solely to compete against other competitive cheer squads.

    Combine this with your comments comparing cheerleaders to ass-shaking, pole-dancing strippers -- because, what, women who do that somehow deserve our derision and disgust? isn't cutting down one group of women based on their looks/profession/pastime bad enough? -- and we're left with what feels a lot like hostile misogyny, which would be bad enough coming from a man; it's doubly unpleasant coming from a woman.

    I don't even care whether cheerleading is seen as a real sport or not, ffs. And no, I'm not a disgruntled former cheerleader. I'm just a woman who is sick of this dismissive crap.
    posted by elizardbits at 8:43 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


    This sort of reminds me of the AskMetafilter thread where someone asked if women like come on their face, and a bunch of people responded that feminists shouldn't like it because it's reinforcing dominant stereotypes about submissive women. But that's misguided. Feminism is about liberation and we should stop putting women (and men) in boxes— even if they are shiny new feminist boxes.

    A question for all you "Cheerleading necessarily objectifies women"-folks: what do you think of burlesque as a feminist movement? What about feminist porn actresses and directors?

    Practically speaking, feminism is a tough sell if it means women can't cheerlead or strip or enjoy sex the way they want to.

    With respect to college sports, I think the real solution is to stop spending so much money on football but that's never going to happen. A men's cheer team would be fabulous.
    posted by anonymuk at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


    With respect to college sports, I think the real solution is to stop spending so much money on football but that's never going to happen.

    As noted above, most college football programs operate at a profit. Or are you suggesting that people who love football give up half of their fix?
    posted by Etrigan at 12:40 PM on June 23, 2010


    As noted above, most college football programs operate at a profit. Or are you suggesting that people who love football give up half of their fix?

    What doesn't make sense is that colleges are running what are essentially professional football farm teams. They might as well start corporate leagues instead. You could have IBM, Apple, Microsoft, etc., all running their own professional football and basketball teams ("Tonight, it's the Microsoft Blue Screeners vs. the Apple Fanboys") for PR and profit, let them siphon off the elite amateur players who would have played college sports, and let the college teams be stocked with somewhat regular students who happen to be pretty good at sports instead of with the not necessarily very bright or studious but physically impressive recruits that colleges, of all places, currently bend over backwards to attract.
    posted by pracowity at 1:24 PM on June 23, 2010


    And in a perfect world of unicorns dancing on rainbows, I'm sure that could be done. In this world, however, where the conventional wisdom is that a good football team raises the profile of your university, especially out of your actual state, thereby increasing the possibility that you will get a lot of out-of-state-tuition-paying students, schools are okay with it.

    That conventional wisdom, in the U.S., does not carry over to the corporate world, where very few companies command the kind of brand loyalty that would lead people to cheer for the Apple Fanboys. The next time you're in a car, check out how many alumni license plates and plate frames and bumper stickers you see vs. how many corporate ones.
    posted by Etrigan at 1:43 PM on June 23, 2010


    A men's cheer team would be fabulous.

    It's already co-ed in a lot of places, isn't that ideal?
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:29 PM on June 23, 2010


    furiousxgeorge: "It's already co-ed in a lot of places, isn't that ideal?"

    I was responding specifically to Kane (from the first article): "How would people react if the school cut a men's sport like baseball or lacrosse and used those funds for a male cheerleading squad?"
    posted by anonymuk at 7:02 PM on June 23, 2010


    But yeah, coed would be awesome too. Sadly, that's not the case for the college in question.
    posted by anonymuk at 7:02 PM on June 23, 2010


    Ahh, I see what you mean. Most likely would be a similar reaction to women, except instead of calling male cheerleaders strippers they would call them gay.
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:16 PM on June 23, 2010


    Combine this with your comments comparing cheerleaders to ass-shaking, pole-dancing strippers -- because, what, women who do that somehow deserve our derision and disgust? isn't cutting down one group of women based on their looks/profession/pastime bad enough? -- and we're left with what feels a lot like hostile misogyny, which would be bad enough coming from a man; it's doubly unpleasant coming from a woman.

    I don't even care whether cheerleading is seen as a real sport or not, ffs. And no, I'm not a disgruntled former cheerleader. I'm just a woman who is sick of this dismissive crap.


    Dude: Climb down off your soapbox for a minute and chill; I'm not being dismissive of the girls themselves, I'm being dismissive of a culture that values cheerleaders over volleyball players when the money is being paid out to fund a sport. Yes, feminism means women are free to make choices: hell they can be porno stars for all I care, but you have to ask why do they want to be porno stars, strippers, or hookers? Because our society pays young women very well in the sex field and that is fucked up. A pretty girl can make a hell of a lot more money servicing creepy old men than she can make teaching children.

    I get that cheerleading can be a competitive sport, but in this particular case it is also a cheerleading squad expected to perform at games. How liberating is it when we tell her girls, "Hey honey, sorry we don't have the money or the interest for you to compete in volleyball, but we sure would appreciate you putting on these short shorts and cheering on our boys." It's second place, the supporting role, over and over again. With a big happy smile put on.

    except instead of calling male cheerleaders strippers they would call them gay.
    You fail in reading comprehension. I never called cheerleaders strippers. The school claims that they are creating more opportunities for women by funding the cheerleading group and cutting the volleyball players and I stated: "nor do I believe that creates more opportunities-- unless your goal is to train more pole dancers" because I am a little hazy as to what opportunities the school is creating.

    Besides all the male cheerleaders that I've seen don't wear skimpy costumes, nor do they move in a suggestive way.Don't forget George W. Bush was a cheerleader, and I'm pretty sure he isn't gay.
    posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:54 PM on June 23, 2010


    How liberating is it when we tell her girls, "Hey honey, sorry we don't have the money or the interest for you to compete in volleyball, but we sure would appreciate you putting on these short shorts and cheering on our boys."
    Oh for fuck's sake. You really are failing to get the point.

    No volleyball player could put on short shorts and become a cheerleader. This is because, and I realize that you may be unable to grasp this concept, cheerleading requires actual skills. Those young women, who you dismiss and insult and compare to strippers, train for years and years to develop their skills. They start taking tumbling classes when they are four years old. A volleyball player could no more walk on to the cheerleading team than she could the gymnastics or diving team. I truly don't understand why you persist in pretending that cheerleading is just shaking your ass in a short skirt.
    "nor do I believe that creates more opportunities-- unless your goal is to train more pole dancers" because I am a little hazy as to what opportunities the school is creating.
    What opportunities do you think college athletics generally create? Do you think college volleyball players go on to play professional volleyball?
    posted by craichead at 8:20 PM on June 23, 2010


    >> Secret Life of Gravy: "How liberating is it when we tell her girls, "Hey honey, sorry we don't have the money or the interest for you to compete in volleyball, but we sure would appreciate you putting on these short shorts and cheering on our boys."

    Which would be closer to a valid argument if that was what was happening in the case in question. It isn't. What is happening is that one established team sport is being cut for another that is newer and not very accepted as a competitive college activity. No one is telling the volleyball players that they now have to become cheerleaders.

    Also, FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST: please stop talking about the respective clothes. Volleyball uniforms are vastly skimpier than cheer uniforms, and you can look at this poster objectifying women volleyball players if you still just can't be convinced. It sounds more and more ridiculous every time you mention the cheerleaders' skimpy clothes (those slutty sexy turtlenecks! Quelle horreur!!) in the face of obviously contradictory facts.

    >> Secret Life of Gravy: "I never called cheerleaders strippers.

    Oh, really? Because this: "nor do I believe that [cheer] creates more opportunities-- unless your goal is to train more pole dancers" is a pretty straightforward comparison.

    Look, SLoG, it's pretty clear that as the mother of a 17-year-old you have some opinions on this that are understandably subjective and related to your own cultural experiences. But you've stepped almost completely away from logical argument on this one.
    posted by pineapple at 9:02 AM on June 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


    I invite you and your high horse to engage in some show jumping and dressage over me and my soapbox! Afterwards, we can all have some Pimm's cup and finger sammiches. All in all, a delightful summer afternoon.
    posted by elizardbits at 9:13 AM on June 24, 2010


    Christ, don't get us started on whether equestrian is a sport.
    posted by Etrigan at 10:09 AM on June 24, 2010


    Don't forget George W. Bush was a cheerleader, and I'm pretty sure he isn't gay.

    AND CHEERLEADERS AREN'T POLE DANCERS IN TRAINING EITHER, FFS.
    posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:18 PM on June 24, 2010


    Dance isn't athletic?

    Did you miss the multiple times that I said that cheer is athletic? Because it seems that in your rush to defend cheer, you've missed what people have actually said. Here's a hint: I like cheer, although in small doses, because it's very... cheery. I don't have any problem with women who do cheer. I do not think doing cheer makes you a slut, a bad feminist, or any other thing.

    My problem is entirely with cheer being supported over volleyball.

    Note also this:

    to wit, some actual remarks in this thread representing "what cheer is": gold lamé hotpants... gyrating your hips...

    Is a description of one aspect of a video someone posted as an argument for its athleticism. I didn't just make this up. I also never said that this is all there is to cheer. I have acknowledged since my first comment that cheer is athletic and requires real skills.

    Yes, volleyball uniforms are skimpy. So are the outfits in many women's sports. They can be needlessly skimpy. However, volleyball shorts don't typically sparkle.

    By the way, I put "sport" in quote marks because I don't think there's a clear delineation between sports and non-sports in the first place.
    posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:05 AM on June 25, 2010


    Judge rules against Quinnipiac: Cheerleading is not a sport.
    posted by availablelight at 11:10 AM on July 21, 2010


    Ahem. The judge ruled that "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX. Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."

    His issue isn't that it's not a sport -- his issue is that it's not widespread. Only seven schools offer it as a sport. Which, honestly, kind of amazes me. It's frigging huge at the high school level; where do those women go?
    posted by Etrigan at 5:29 PM on July 21, 2010


    They compete at the college level. It just gets run as a club (I guess) instead of a sport. There are way more than seven schools competing in something like the UCA National Championship.
    posted by smackfu at 5:43 PM on July 21, 2010


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