The first DI school to raise the issue of cheerleading as a sport, Maryland decided last week to cut the team now known as acrobatic and tumbling or acro for short. The acro team is one of 8 varsity teams being cut at Maryland which is suffering from huge budget deficits.
In 2003 UMD made its cheer team a varsity sport, believing other schools would follow quickly. Others schools have followed (only 5 in DI though), but obstacles remain.
At the forefront is the “is it a sport” question. Sure–if it’s treated like a sport. In other words (and in the context of intercollegiate athletics): does it exist solely to be a sport (and not a support system from other sports)?; is the team and the athletes provided the same level of support in all program areas as other existing sports? Meeting such conditions would clear the way for OCR to offer approval and thus make it count for Title IX which is what most schools are looking for: a cheap sport to even the numbers. (Though, as I have said before, I don’t think a sport the highest rate of catastrophic injury will necessarily be cheap.)
But the NCAA is another obstacle. The activity formerly known as competitive cheer isn’t recognized as a sport by the organization. So they won’t count it yet–or sponsor a championship for it.
And the schism in the cheer community between acro and its competitor–stunt–makes NCAA approval an interesting prospect/process.
Check out the recent issue of TIME for more on the issue and to see Erin’s quote.