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Cheerleading Deserves a Sporting Chance

July 29th, 2007 by dk

The scolds are lamenting the University of Oregon’s announcement last week that cheerleading will join baseball as its newest competitive sports. They wish the school was instead adding crew or gymnastics or archery — something more “sporty.”

But “sporty” to a high school girl is the car that the star quarterback drives. Football players and cheerleaders tend to follow one another around in high school. UO is betting it can use that dynamic when recruiting both sexes.

Title IX mandates that women and men be given equitable opportunities for athletic scholarships, so UO’s new athletic director Pat Kilkenny had to find a female sport to balance the expansion of the men’s program to include baseball. Competitive cheer fit the bill. Minimal equipment and facility expense, a successful club sport history (national champs in the 2005 United Spirit Association’s Collegiate Nationals for coed teams in the large school division), and no shortage of high schoolers wanting to continue at the next level.

UO will follow the University of Maryland’s lead in keeping the current cheerleading squad — renamed the “spirit team” — separate from the competitive cheer team and its 35 scholarships. But nobody will remember this distinction once both squads are doing their thing. The confusion between the two squads will be used to the university’s full advantage.

Kilkenny made millions in business and successful businesspeople know that you do best when you give the customer what the customer wants.

As an athletic director, the hardest part of the job so far has been figuring out who his customer is. What they want isn’t hard to decipher. A well-respected professor told me once that the formula for success as a university administrator is well understood, and not at all complicated.

University administrators are well loved when the students are getting enough sex, the alumni get enough football, and the faculty gets enough parking. I have no reason to believe he was wrong, but the competition seems to be getting harder for each of the three.

Presumably some football recruits will be happy to hear that this school offers scholarships to cheerleaders. All other things being equal, that little factoid has to help us with the testosterone crowd. Top-notch cheerleaders will certainly attract a few more top-notch football players.

Kilkenny is hinting that an announcement will be coming before the summer is through for a basketball arena that is “more ambitious than people expect.” If he’s smart, it’ll include some parking for the faculty.

That leaves coed sex, and it’s the most surprising of the three.

A friend of mine has a daughter who was worried that she’d be uncomfortable in her summer campus rental because of her roommate’s boyfriend. (These are liberated parents who think sex with proper protection is not a bad thing.) But, as it turns out, the 20-year-old boy is not frequenting the girls’ house, because it lacks air conditioning. A 20-year-old boy is declining sex if it doesn’t include climate control. The world has changed.

Maybe it’s salacious television shows and Internet sites that demand children click a button to vouch for the fact that they are a mature adult before viewing its content. Maybe it’s growing up with racier and saucier dolls looking to unseat Barbie. Maybe it’s seeing pole-dancing as a new style of jazzercize for women of all ages. Maybe it was the tectonic shift in fashion, when everybody went from clothes two sizes too big to two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, young women now feel they have to compete for sexual favors from their favorite young men. Maybe if my friend’s daughter’s roommate was a cheerleader, her boyfriend would be willing to sweat a little with the tumble.

Come to think of it, maybe we should be glad that UO didn’t take its leadership role any more seriously, as they tried to “think outside the box.” The men’s wrestling team got the ax in this realignment to make room for baseball. Rather than being the second university to offer female cheerleading as a separate sport, they could have been the first to offer female wrestling.

{184 – 90 = 94}

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