The Cost Of School Spirit: Cheer Squad Low On Funds



SCC Cheer can’t afford their uniforms.

For the last several years, the cheerleaders have had to fundraise hundreds of dollars to cover expenses because they’re unable to get the necessary money from the school. One year, the cheerleaders sold cookie dough to raise money.

Sara Rutherford, captain of SCC’s cheer squad, came to SCC specifically for cheerleading. She proudly describes herself as a “gym rat.”

According to Rutherford, because Varsity, an athletics apparel company, has a monopoly on cheerleading uniforms, and in accordance with rules that come from the athletic department, athletes aren’t allowed on the court without Nike logos visible. This contributes to the cheer uniforms costing a total of $921.87 this year.

Uniforms are also expensive because they must be tailor made for each cheerleader. Also, indoor and outdoor sports have different requirements. Cheerleaders aren’t allowed on the basketball court with their outdoor shoes on. And pom poms often cost around $50.

According to Rutherford, cheerleading is not counted technically as a sport, and therefore can’t receive funding from the athletic department.

“Under our governing body, the Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC), none of the 38 schools have cheerleading as a sport,” said SCC Athletic Director Steve Eskridge.

The Laws

Signed into law by President Richard Nixon, Title IX of the the Education Amendments of 1972, which amended the Higher Education Act of 1965, resulting from the previous decade’s passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title IX states that no one can be denied opportunity in education on the basis of sex.

In the sports world it is known as the basis for public schools requiring an equal number of male and female sports programs. However, cheerleading does not meet the criteria for a sport. Yet.

In August of 2012, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that cheerleading does not yet meet the standards of a sport when it decided that the 30 roster positions for the Quinnipiac University women’s cheerleading team did not count when it came to ensuring equality between the sexes.

The ruling stated that cheerleading was “not yet sufficiently organized or its rules sufficiently defined to afford women genuine participation opportunities in a varsity sport.”

The People

“Cheer is a unique club in how it functions,” said Program Support Supervisor Micaela Smith, whose job it is to help clubs get started at SCC. “It gets a lot more complicated than it sounds because there’s all these different bureaucratic policies in play as far as how (club policies) are determined.”

Typically, uniforms are an expense associated with sports teams rather than with clubs.

Cheer starts with the baseline budget of $500 given to all clubs, which does not cover their expenses. Then they have to go through the mini grant process at the start of each year.

The ASG holds the responsibility of how to allocate additional funding and makes its decision through a voting process.

Last year, SCC cheer squad members each paid $400 out of pocket for their uniforms, and through a combination of mini grants and fundraising, they got the rest. Many cheerleaders had jobs outside of school though, and missed basketball games because they couldn’t raise the money fast enough to order the uniforms in time.

At the first ASG board meeting of the 2017-18 school year, cheer made two mini grant requests. One was for a trip to travel with the basketball team to the North Idaho X-Over Tournament, a three-day, two-night trip. They requested $4,671.92 for food, travel expenses and lodging, and were only granted money to book rooms ($1,505).

The second was a request for uniforms, costing a total of $5,500. They were granted $4,609.35.

“This year I didn’t know what to do, I was really in a panic,” Rutherford said.

She has five members on her squad, and they’re all new and in need of uniforms.

According to Rutherford, some of the cheer squad left the ASG meeting “almost in tears, and having panic attacks.”

Rutherford said about the outcome of the meeting, however, “I wasn’t upset personally, just tired from standing up there (discussing the mini grant) for, like, two- and-a-half hours.”

“I totally understand where they’re coming from,” Smith said, discussing the cheer squad’s fundraising situation.

The cheer squad had 10 members when they made the request. Currently, they have five. “Five members sounds sad,” Rutherford said, “but it totally fits in with our small but strong athletic program.”

Had they been allowed to keep the $4,609.35, each cheerleader would have $921 for each of their uniforms. When they learned the squad had lost members, however, their mini grant was retracted, and they were instead granted $3,000, in addition to the restoration of their $500 baseline budget. This leaves each girl with $700 for their uniforms, if they use their entire baseline budget.

Rutherford’s long-term solution is to have cheerleaders raise money in spring quarter for
new squad members in the fall. She’s currently considering organizing a cheer camp for younger children to attend.

The Funding

Lack of funding is a problem that is not only plaguing the cheer squad. SCC’s sports teams need both a home and away uniform in order to play games.

“Most of the time, the school only funds us for one (uniform),” said Athletic Director Eskridge. “If we want the other one we have to fundraise. Most of SCC’s sports programs have a fundraising component of some kind.”

There is also a general budget for the athletic department, overseen by Eskridge, that covers the cost of things such as equipment, scholarships and coaches’ salaries.

Eskridge appreciates the environment that the cheerleaders provide and the role they play in getting the community engaged. He sees the entertainment side of athletics and values the role cheerleaders play.

“I wish we could design it and define it a little differently, where they could really be part of a more promotional engine for us. … It’s a very important element of the campus,” Eskridge said.

By CJ PRIEBE, Sports Editor and NELLIE FERGUSON, Political Reporter
Photo: SCC cheer practices routine.