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Yeah! Cheerleading Not a Sport Under Title IX

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Let's give a cheer for Title IX, the big winner in a July 21 decision by a federal district court judge in Connecticut. Judge Stefan Underhill has proclaimed competitive cheerleading not a sport for purposes of Title IX and the defendant, Quinnipiac University, will have to reinstate its women's volleyball team instead of cutting it for a cheer squad.

The University was sued last year after announcing that it was planning to cut its women's volleyball team and replace it with a competitive cheer squad to save money, according to the Associated Press. It seems cheer comes cheaper than other "sports." That may be because it is not a sport, at least not for purposes of Title IX. "Competitive cheer may, some time in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX," U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill wrote in his decision. "Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students."

The AP reports that to qualify as a sport, an activity must have several characteristics: coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season and a governing organization. The activity also must have competition as its primary goal.

The primary goal of Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 was to end gender based discrimination in all educational programs, including sports. The law guarantees equal protection at all federally funded academic institutions for both male and female student-athletes and male and female persons employed by school athletic programs.

Judge Underhill not only found fault with Quinnipiac's attempt to replace volleyball with cheerleading, but with the school's recordkeeping as well. The AP reports the judge found the evidence showed the school under-reported men's sports numbers by cutting team members and then re-instating them as soon as the report was complete, and over-reported women's opportunities by doing the opposite.

The university is trying to bounce back from its tumble. In a statement, Quinnipiac spokeswoman Lynn Bushnell said, "We will continue to press for competitive cheer to become an officially recognized varsity sport in the future. Consistent with our long-standing plans to expand opportunities in women's athletics, the university intends to add women's rugby as a varsity sport beginning in the 2011-2012 academic year."

Go team.

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