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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pac-10 voting to put ban on cheerleading stunts

    Communication senior Andrew Bryce and pre-business sophomore Austin Singer practice partner stunting outside McKale Center Monday afternoon.  Under proposed guidelines, Pac-10 cheerleaders would not be allowed to perform partner stunting or have their feet leave the ground.
    Communication senior Andrew Bryce and pre-business sophomore Austin Singer practice partner stunting outside McKale Center Monday afternoon. Under proposed guidelines, Pac-10 cheerleaders would not be allowed to perform partner stunting or have their feet leave the ground.

    The fate of UA cheerleading will be decided later this week as Pacific 10 Conference council members vote on whether to ban their cheerleading teams from performing stunts.

    The vote may result in a “”grounding”” of the Pac-10 cheerleading teams, which would prevent them from doing much more than a kick in the air with one foot, said Angela Peiffer, a UA cheerleader and biochemistry junior.

    “”In all reality – if this passes, cheerleading is over,”” Peiffer said. “”The program would not go away, but it wouldn’t be the same. We would become like a second pom line, but we’re not even as good of dancers.””

    The votes to decide whether or not to ground cheerleaders in the Pac-10 are due Friday at 5 p.m., and Pac-10 officials will announce the decision sometime next week, said Kathleen “”Rocky”” LaRose, Arizona’s senior associate director of athletics.

    Each university will choose one of four options: eliminate all stunts, ban basket tosses and pyramids, create no policy with a review on the issue in one academic year or abstain from voting, LaRose said.

    Schools that don’t have a cheerleading program can opt to abstain from voting, LaRose said.

    University officials root for a compromise

    Earlier this month the Pac-10 council, comprising three officials from each of the Pac-10 universities, voted to disallow their cheerleading teams from performing any stunts that had both their legs off the ground, LaRose said.

    Cheerleading teams across the Pac-10 voiced their opposition to the grounding policy by writing letters to the Pac-10 council and their athletic departments, said Mike Landis, a summer co-captain of the UA cheerleading team and a physiology senior.

    “”We have also encouraged people outside the team to write to the Pac-10 and let them know that cheerleading means something to more than just cheerleaders,”” Landis said. “”It’s not just about cheerleading, it’s about the people in the crowd.””

    This sparked a reconsideration of the decision to ground the teams, Peiffer said.

    Last Thursday, members of the UA cheerleading team met with the school’s Pac-10 council members, athletics director Jim Livengood and LaRose.

    “”We were really happy when Jim Livengood and Rocky were so supportive of us because they’re our voice at the Pac-10,”” Peiffer said.

    Arizona will vote in support of banning basket tosses and pyramids and to allow the team to perform some of the traditional stunts they currently use while eliminating some of the high-risk moves that can lead to serious injuries, LaRose said.

    “”Ultimately we want to do the right thing and the right thing is insuring the safety of our athletes while allowing them to use their athletic talents,”” she said.

    The “”compromise”” grounding that the UA is voting for is also the choice of ASU’s Pac-10 council members, Landis said.

    The team favors waiting until next year to deal with a possible grounding but also supports a compromise policy, said Taylor Hendrickson, a summer co-captain of the UA cheerleading team and a marketing senior.

    Injuries lead to grounding

    Pac-10 cheerleaders experienced a partial grounding earlier this year at the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament, where they were banned from performing basket tosses and pyramids.

    Some cheerleaders believe the NCAA enacted the policy when Kristi Yamaoka, a Southern Illinois cheerleader, suffered a chipped neck vertebra and a concussion after falling 15 feet and hitting her head on the hardwood court at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament March 6.

    “”A lot of attention was created because of the girl from Southern Illinois,”” Hendrickson said. “”They said that wasn’t the reason for the grounding, but I think that’s what it is.””

    Phoebe Chalk, an associate athletics director and adviser to the UA cheer team for the last seven years, said the incident with Yamaoka isn’t directly responsible for the grounding policy but that it shed some light on the issue.

    “”Our biggest concern is the safety involved in the activity, and whatever the Pac-10 decides is what we will accommodate,”” Chalk said. “”Our injuries extend to everything from a twisted ankle to a broken leg, but we haven’t had any devastating injuries from what I can recall.””

    Is the Pac-10 out of line?

    Some cheerleaders question whether the Pac-10 should have the authority to ban their stunts.

    “”The frustrating part is we don’t get a lot of things the other athletes get, but then we have decisions made for us by the Pac-10,”” Peiffer said.

    The NCAA and the Pac-10 don’t recognize cheerleading as a sport – instead they classify them as spirit activities – yet the Pac-10 serves as a legislative body for cheerleaders, Landis said.

    “”We shouldn’t be legislated by the Pac-10, but given the way things are set up right now, they’re the best fit to oversee us,”” Landis said.

    Still, cheerleading is a part of the UA’s athletic events and the athletic department would be responsible for their injuries, LaRose said.

    “”We’re giving them that access to perform at our events, so we should be able to have a say in what liabilities we accept when allowing them to perform,”” LaRose said.

    The Pac-10 should recognize cheerleading as a sport, said Claire Chiang, an undeclared freshman.

    “”I would say the cheerleaders should be able to do what they want,”” Chiang said. “”If the Pac-10 wants to put rules on them then they should recognize them as a sport first.””

    Cheerleaders should be able to take the risk of getting injured because they are adults, said Tom Graf, a pharmacy senior.

    “”At this level, whether or not they can do stunts, I don’t think really matters,”” Graf said. “”I really don’t care, it’s not like I am going to the games to watch cheerleaders anyway.””

    How exactly would grounding change cheerleading?

    If the Pac-10 enacts a grounding policy it would alter the fundamental aspects of cheerleading, Landis said.

    “”Imagine our tryouts next year,”” Hendrickson said. “”If we can’t do stunts then what would they base our tryouts on? Just pretty girls, ’cause anybody can raise a sign.””

    It doesn’t make sense not to allow cheerleaders to do stunts, flips and tumbling considering these activities are performed by Pac-10 gymnasts, Peiffer said.

    With 14 men currently on the team, it is uncertain how many would remain cheerleaders if a grounding policy passes in the Pac-10, Landis said.

    “”Me personally, I’ll stick around, because it’s still a great experience,”” Landis said. “”But if we can’t do stunts it’s really disappointing, because that’s what we all signed up to do.””

    Grounding would also rob Pac-10 cheerleading of its athleticism by no longer allowing male cheerleaders to pick up and throw their female counterparts, Landis said.

    “”It definitely opens the team up to anybody who’s interested in cheerleading and yelling rather then who can pick up and throw a girl,”” Landis said.

    Currently some of the Pac-10 schools, including Stanford and California, don’t allow their cheerleaders to do stunts, LaRose said.

    “”If a Pac-10 rule is passed then you need to meet that rule,”” LaRose said. “”If that happens, I think then the team just needs to become more creative, and if we look back at the history of cheerleading the first cheerleaders were actually yell-leaders.””

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