Federal Judge: Cheerleading Is Not a Sport

Judge says calling cheerleading a sport violates federal gender-equality rules.

ByABC News
June 21, 2010, 2:48 PM

June 21, 2010— -- A judge in Connecticut has ruled cheerleading is not a sport -- and universities therefore cannot direct money to the activity to meet federal gender-equality regulations.

U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ruled Wednesday that Quinnipiac University violated the law when it pulled funding from its women's volleyball team to support a competitive cheerleading squad.

"I conclude as a matter of law that Quinnipiac University discriminated on the basis of sex during the 2009-10 academic years by failing to provide equal athletic participation opportunities for women," Underhill wrote in his ruling.

The volleyball team sued the school, claiming that redirecting money intended for women's sports teams to a cheerleading squad violated Title IX, the groundbreaking civil rights legislation that mandates men and women's athletic program receive equal funding.

The school claimed modern competitive cheerleading is a sport and it could therefore count the squad's members as women athletes.

The judge, however, found the activity did not yet meet the criteria to be defined as a sport under Title IX, calling it "underdeveloped and disorganized."

"Specifically, I hold that the University's competitive cheerleading team does not qualify as a varsity sport for the purposes of Title IX and, therefore, its members may not be counted as athletic participants under the statute," Underhill wrote in his decision.

"Competitive cheer may, sometime in the future qualify as a sport under Title IX; today, however the activity is too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic opportunities for students," he wrote.

The judge gave Quinnipiac 60 days to come up with a plan to keep the volleyball team and comply with gender rules.

Though Quinnipiac, located in Hamden, Conn. and known more for its political polling than its athletics programs, is a private school, it receives some federal funding and is therefore subject to Title IX requirements.