Connecticut Trial to Determine If Cheerleading is a Sport

"The Department of Education has issued letters in the past on how sports are defined. Do they prepare for competition in the way other teams do? Do they have coaches? Do they recruit? What's the length of their season and the number of practices? Is there a national governing body? The bottom line is whether their primary purpose is competition or just support from the sidelines," Chaudhry said.

The school argues that cheerleading has changed significantly since Title IX was passed in 1972. The cheers have become significantly more athletic, incorporating throws, tumbles and flips. It has also became more competitive, with squads competing against each other rather than just rooting for teams from the sidelines.

During last year's hearing, school cheer coach Mary Ann Powers defended competitive cheer as a legitimate sport, saying her team is made of athletes, most of them elite gymnasts.

Additionally, the university and seven other schools recently formed a governing body, the National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association, to govern and develop competitive cheer as a sport.

Competitive cheerleading championships previously were decided by two organizations — the National Cheerleaders Association and the Universal Cheerleading Association. Both are tied to Varsity Brands Inc., a for-profit company that makes cheerleading apparel and runs camps.

School officials testified in last year's hearing that the benefit of a competitive cheer team is more athletic opportunities for women at lower cost. Quinnipiac's cheerleading team cost the school about $1,250 per roster spot, the school testified last year. The team currently has 30 members. The volleyball team cost more than $6,300 per team member with 11 players in 2008-09 and a budget of more than $70,000, according to the testimony.

The volleyball players say the university has a pattern of discriminating against women athletes and manipulating rosters to appear to be in compliance with Title IX.

The school, they claim in the suit, overcounts its female runners. Women who run track, they claim, are counted on the rosters for indoor track, outdoor track and cross country, even though all those sports are essentially one team.

In order to make it look as if it had eliminated men's teams to balance the total number of opportunities available, the school eliminated men's outdoor and indoor track, but kept the same number of male runners, competing for a single track team.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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