Cheer squad denied rings for titles

  Alabama competing at the College Cheerleading National Championship in Orlando, Fl./CW|Submitted Photo

Despite the University of Alabama cheerleading squad winning the 2011 National Championship, the Alabama Athletic Department will not be paying for the team’s national championship rings.

In a statement released to The Tuscaloosa News, Doug Walker, associate director of the athletics department, said this action results from a long-standing policy at the University of Alabama that doesn’t view cheerleading as an NCAA-sanctioned sport. “The University of Alabama congratulates our cheerleader squad on winning the UCA Cheerleading Competition,” Walker said. “The athletics department typically awards rings to intercollegiate athletic teams. The rules, policies and guidelines governing the roles and activities of cheerleaders have been constant for the past several years and were in place before the squad participated in the UCA event.” In a 2010 federal court decision, U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled that cheerleading was not considered a sport under Title IX. “Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future, qualify as a sport under Title IX,” Underhill said after his ruling. “Today, however, the activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletics participation for students.” A.J. Buckner, a four-year starter and the only senior on the team, said he was “pretty depressed” but not surprised when he heard Alabama would not buy the team national championship rings. Aside from that, Buckner said he feels worse about what he considers a lack of support from Alabama during his time on the cheerleading squad. “What upset me more than anything, it’s the amount of support the University has shown us,” Buckner said. “When we won [the championship], everybody went nuts. Everyone just wanted to congratulate us. Our university doesn’t understand how we represent the university. I don’t understand why the University doesn’t brag that we have another No. 1 team.” Buckner said that when the cheerleading squad tried to compete in the UCA Cheerleading Competition last year, the University almost barred them from competing.

“Last year, they said, ‘You’re not doing it,’” Buckner said.  “Luckily, we had a ton of alumni send e-mails, and they saw how important it was, and they let us compete.” The University of Alabama Athletic Department could not be reached for comment. Buckner said he thinks the issue revolves around cheerleading being viewed as “more for PR” than a sport. “That’s always been an issue,” Buckner said. “It’s not a sport because you only see us at games… And that’s important. But anybody just can’t do it. It takes a lot of practice. It is a sport. It involves strength training and conditioning. I can’t see a difference in any other sports and cheerleading. “I’ve done other sports, and I feel I can’t find any other sport that practices as much as we practice, who work out as much as we work out.” Buckner also said that other teams in competition are shown much more support by their schools than Alabama. “We received a bid to come compete from the UCA,” Buckner said. “When we were there, you look around and saw schools that definitely didn’t receive bids, but their schools supported them enough to pay for them to come. It’s kind of sad to see how schools who aren’t as good as us get so much more support.”

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