March 5, 2013

Competitive cheerleading not a sport, Connecticut judge rules

The decision means that Quinnipiac University must keep its volleyball team to comply with Title IX.

The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. — A U.S. District Court judge in Connecticut has again ruled that competitive cheerleading, despite some upgrades, is not a sport, and says Quinnipiac University must remain under an injunction that requires the school to keep its women's volleyball team.

click image to enlarge

Cheerleaders from Gorham High School complete a three-person pyramid during their routine at the Class A East/West State Cheerleading Competition in February 2012.

2012 Press Herald file photo/Tim Greenway

Several volleyball players and their coach successfully sued the university in 2009 after it announced it would eliminate volleyball for budgetary reasons and replace it with a competitive cheer squad.

U.S. District Court Judge Stefan R. Underhill ruled in their favor, saying that competitive cheerleading had not developed enough to be considered a college sport for Title IX purposes, and he ordered the school to keep the volleyball team and come up with a compliance plan.

In his latest ruling Monday, Underhill said that the additions of the cheer team, now called "acrobatics and tumbling," and a women's rugby team do not give the university's female students competitive opportunities equal to those offered to male students and he denied the school's request to lift his previous injunction.

Quinnipiac spokeswoman Lynn Bushnell issued a statement Tuesday saying the school is disappointed with the ruling but "remains committed to its long standing plans to continue expanding opportunities in women's athletics."

Title IX, in 1972, opened doors for girls and women by banning sex discrimination in all federally funded school programs, including sports.

While the judge noted Monday that acrobatics and tumbling have made improvements, including more cohesive rules of competition and a better championship format, he said two organizations compete to oversee the activity and it is not recognized by the NCAA as a sport or even an emerging sport.

"And without that recognition, acro lacks what every other varsity men's team sponsored by Quinnipiac enjoys: the chance to participate in an NCAA-sponsored championship," the judge wrote.

Underhill found that the rugby team lacked quality competition because only four other schools offer women's rugby as a varsity sport, which meant the school's team spent most of its inaugural season playing club teams.

Attorney Jon Orleans, who argued the case for the volleyball players along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, said it was significant that the judge went beyond just counting male and female athletes at the school.

"The court went on to analyze the quality of competition offered to men's teams and women's teams, and found that women at Quinnipiac were not, on the whole, provided with competitive opportunities equivalent to those provided to men," he said. "This is one of very few, if not the only, court decisions to address this particular aspect of Title IX's requirements."

 

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