Where Competitive Cheer Stands According to Title IX expert & Attorney

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cheersafety

Cheer Parent
Jan 7, 2010
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http://title-ix.blogspot.com/

Cheerleading on Trial
As Kris mentioned, we were both in the courtroom yesterday for all of Jeff Webb's fascinating testimony about the nature of competitive cheer. Webb is a national expert on college cheerleading, by virtue of his position as CEO of Varsity Brands, which owns and operates all of the major cheer competitions and camps, and his leadership in other governing bodies and associations related to cheerleading. Webb was a witness for the plaintiffs, the members and coach of the Quinnipiac University volleyball team, who are arguing that the university's decision to cut their team violated Title IX because of the resulting imbalance of athletic opportunities. Part of QU's defense is that the newly-added opportunities in competitive cheer help make up for some of that disparity. Which raises the question, is competitive cheer a sport for Title IX purposes?

Webb testified that as it currently exists, cheer is not a sport in the same vein as other, typical college varsity sports. I've heard many times people offer a knee-jerk reaction to competitive cheer by referring to the athleticism apparent in National Cheer Association and Universal Cheer Association competitions, which are often televised on ESPN. But Webb, whose company owns these competitions, pointed out they provide cheer squads one annual opportunity (because you can't enter both) to perform a single, two-minute routine in competition. There are virtually no other competitive venues for competitive cheer. This made me think of the following analogy: imagine that QU formed a volleyball team whose only competition for the entire year was just two minutes long. Should this be considered a sport, comparable to men's hockey, track, and other sports, for purposes of Title IX? I think it would be clear to people that even though the act of playing volleyball in a competitive setting is athletic, to be a "sport" there has to be something more. Specifically, there has to be more of a season.

On this issue, we also heard lots of testimony, some from Webb, and also by the QU Athletic Director Jack McDonald, about the efforts of a handful of colleges and universities to come up with a competitive meet format for cheer, so that squads could compete throughout a season. This testimony largely showed that the sport of competitive cheer, while one of apparent potential, does not currently offer enough competitive opportunities to warrant substituting cheer for volleyball. There are only seven varsity competitive cheer squads in the country. The closest one one geographically to Quinnipiac is at the University of Maryland. This lack of similarly-situated programs makes it difficult to compare competitive cheer to other college sports that have regional conferences and regular competition. Moreover, unlike other sports offered by Quinnipiac, competitive cheer does not have a championship run by the NCAA, nor does competitive cheer bear the NCAA's designation of an official "emerging sport for women" (indicating that schools are adding the sport in sufficient numbers that it will be an NCAA sport after a trial period of several years.) The NCAA has indicated that before it will even consider cheer as an emerging sport, there must be an official determination by the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights that the sport would count for Title IX purposes. No such determination has been issued, and from McDonald's testimony it was not even clear on whether one had been requested. (FYI, contrary to the New Haven Register's account, "emerging sport" it is the NCAA's designation, not OCR's.)

Sometimes the testimony got confusing because there are many different types of cheerleading, and the lawyers and witnesses always had to carefully explain what type was being referred to in any given context. Varsity competitive cheer programs are those administered by college athletic departments as a sport like any other. They exist only for the purpose of competition and do not perform on the sidelines of other sports. This what Webb was referring to when he said "they do not cheer and they do not lead." (quoted here.) To avoid confusion, Webb said this would ideally be called by another name, one that doesn't use either word. For example, Oregon calls their varsity competitive cheer program "tumble and stunt" and the college administrators who are working to design a competitive program formed the National Competitive Stunt and Tumble Association (NCSTA) earlier this year. Varsity competitive cheer teams are not the same as college-affiliated competitive cheer clubs, which are more numerous than the 7 varsity programs referenced above. Like club sports teams, which are not run by athletic departments, competitive cheer clubs are not properly compared to varsity athletic opportunities for purposes of determining whether the school is equitably distributing athletic opportunities. It's also important to distinguish competitive cheer from traditional sideline cheerleading, which is not a sport because its primary purpose is entertainment and spirit raising.

In sum, I thought the plaintiffs' counsel and their witness, Webb, presented a compelling case that competitive cheer opportunities as they exist right now are too different both in scale and scope from other sports to warrant a fair comparison between opportunities provided to women in cheer and opportunities provided by Quinnipiac's men's sports. This does not foreclose the possibility that competitive cheer could "emerge" into a bona fide sport. But until that happens, a university' decision to substitute it for an existing sport will raise Title IX concerns.

We will of course follow the rest of the trial as it unfolds (no more field trips to Connecticut, I'm afraid, so we'll be reading about it in the Connecticut press) to see how the defendants address this and other issues raised in the plaintiff's case. The trial is scheduled to conclude tomorrow an the judge's decision on the issue will likely take several months.
POSTED BY EBUZ AT 10:14 AM
LABELS: ATHLETICS, CHEERLEADING, CUTTING TEAMS, QUINNIPIAC COLLEGE, VOLLEYBALL
BTW...
Happy Anniversary Title IX! 38 years and counting.

I find it appropriate that a big Title IX case is currently underway during this anniversary, the outcome of which is likely to have a very large impact on the the law's application.

And I also use this moment to remind people that because the legislation still exists, because equity in education has not been achieved, because we hear every week (at least!) about disparities, that we are not in a post-Title IX era. We are in the Title IX era.
**********end of blog
Name it Competitive Cheer or Stunt & Tumble, but the door for more opportunity may be opening a little slower than we thought. :(
 
Does this apply to the thread I started earlier? It is the name holding back competition 'cheer'?

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Great post cheersafety. I know that answered a lot of the questions I had, and now understand where Jeff was coming from. He made a valid argument, in my opinion.

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it was long...

it seemed to me that the main crux of the argument against competitive cheer as a title ix sport is that it isn't established enough yet to offer substantial competitive opportunities. Its not that they are saying Competitive Cheer is not a "sport" but that it doesn't have enough competitive opportunities to qualify under title ix

Basically enough Universities have to consider it a sport before they are allowed to consider it a sport.

analogy: you need a car to get to work, but you need a job to buy a car.

Essentially to pull it off, the NCSTA would need to have at least about 30 teams spread throughout 4 or 5 conferences and have at least 10 or so competitions following the NCSTA format to decide conference champs and then a national championship meet.
At that point, assuming the competitive cheer athletes have the same access to benefits as the other varsity sports, then it would definitely meet all of the title ix requirements
 
This was a GREAT post!! Thank you so much. It does help clarify what exactly this trial is about, but I don't know that I will ever understand why Jeff Webb agreed to be an expert for the opposing side. His testimony, IMO, should have been that competitive cheer IS a sport and needs universities like QU adopting it as such in order for it to grow and prosper.
 
I didn't get that Mr Webb was saying that, in theory, competitive cheer could not become an official sport. He was saying that, as it currently exists at the college level, it would not yet meet the technical standards of Title IX. This does not mean that the university could not offer scholarships for cheer, merely that they could not CUT volleyball scholarships in order to do so and still meet Title IX requirements. Essentially, volleyball as it currently stands more completely meets the criteria set forth by Title IX. That could change in the future.
 
But him testifying for the volleyball team essentially says he doesn't think it should be added as a Title IX option doesn't it?? I mean, if he believes that it should be added as a Title IX option, shouldn't he have testified that as it currently stands it would not qualify, but that if colleges like QU make the necessary changes, it could help in the endeavor to include it? Instead, he compared them to chess players. I really am trying to understand this whole mess, but I just can't seem to see another side of it yet.
 
This is such a bunch of crap.... first of all, many colleges compete at both NCA and UCA because they are like 2 months apart. Secondly, with this new meet-style way that the college teams are doing it, doesn't that qualify as ongoing and progressive? Colleges could technically compete in Open 6 all year round and work towards a worlds bid, so how is that different?
 
I don't know the specifics of the trial or the circumstances which led to him being there. However, if he believes that the current program at that school doesn't currently meet the standards of Title IX, then it is his obligation to tell the truth, regardless of what he "hopes" will eventually be true, what he wishes was the current situation was, or what he thinks would be good PR for his company.
 
I don't know the specifics of the trial or the circumstances which led to him being there. However, if he believes that the current program at that school doesn't currently meet the standards of Title IX, then it is his obligation to tell the truth, regardless of what he "hopes" will eventually be true, what he wishes was the current situation was, or what he thinks would be good PR for his company.

I am an expert witness for cheer and you are not demanded to appear in court, you are hired or selected by either the plaintiffs or the defendants. Also, Jeff is not a Title IX expert. He was an expert for why cheerleading is not a sport. The courts did not allow his testimony on Title IX or collegiate sport governance. Expert witnesses must be named by both parties 75 days before trial. Experts give a written opinion and are normally deposed before trial. As an expert you choose to be on a case because your expertise will help that side win.

So you are saying he would have been wrong to help the NCSTA/Quinnipiac and had no choice but to prove cheer isn't a sport? I am really confused.
 
Cheersafety, is it true that you have been involved with a number of Lawsuits where you were the expert witness against Varsity Brands? I heard this the other day, and just thought that could shed some light on some of your posts. I don't know, I'm just asking, but from reading from all your posts, and seeing your Penn & Teller episode, and hearing that you have been involved in a number of cases where you testified against Varsity Brands. I feel that if you do have an angle or beef then let me know or set me straight.
 
Cheersafety, is it true that you have been involved with a number of Lawsuits where you were the expert witness against Varsity Brands? I heard this the other day, and just thought that could shed some light on some of your posts. I don't know, I'm just asking, but from reading from all your posts, and seeing your Penn & Teller episode, and hearing that you have been involved in a number of cases where you testified against Varsity Brands. I feel that if you do have an angle or beef then let me know or set me straight.

No, I have never been an expert witness against Varsity Brands. And by writing online I can be questioned under oath the next time I am on a case. I have been on the side of plaintiffs (injured cheerleaders) and coaches/universities. I am an advocate for youth sport safety and my agenda is to have national guidelines for youth sport safety.

Did you hear about our work with the leaders of the Congressional Sports Caucus and the Government Accountability Office investigation on catastrophic sports injuries?

I am willing to answer any question, any time, any where about cheer, NCSF, so called "angles or beef", feel free to call me 1-800-596-7860 ext 301 or email [email protected] or PM or post publicly.

Thanks for asking, I really appreciate it and thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to clarify some misinformation that may have caused confusion.
 
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