Cheerleaders finish sixth, will not return to nationals next year

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    After placing sixth in the National Cheerleaders Association national competition last week, TCU’s cheerleading squad learned it might have been its last trip to the event because of university athletic regulations, cheer captain Ellie Spencer said.

    Because of the squad’s designation as a “game day only squad,” the cheerleaders will be restricted to performing at sporting events in future years, Spencer, a senior strategic communication major, said.

    Athletics Director Chris Del Conte did not comment on why the squad was classified as a “game day only” squad or why the squad could not participate in competition in future years.

    Spencer said the squad competed in the competition last week in Daytona Beach, Fla., and could have placed third if it was allowed to do basket tosses, a stunt that tosses a cheerleader into the air.

    “I just really want to see our program as one of the best,” Spencer said.

    For all four years Spencer was part of the squad, she said the team decided at the beginning of the year whether enough members wanted to go to competition. In 2010, there were enough who wanted to compete, she said.

    The squad began practices in August and showcased its talent in a video for NCA to ensure a spot in the April competition, Spencer said. Then, the team began a year’s worth of fundraising to compete, raising $15,000 by itself for travel, competition fees and food.

    But one week before the competition, Spencer said Del Conte notified the squad it could not compete because its routines incorporated basket tosses, a maneuver in which cheerleaders are thrown up into the air and caught by multiple members. When one of the cheerleaders proposed the team not do basket tosses in the routines, the squad was allowed to go to the competition in Florida, she said.

    The problem with basket tosses first came into play in 2005 when the squad did not have a head coach to ensure safety in the stunt, Spencer said. At the time, the university prevented basket tosses because of the lack of a supervisor, she said.

    Scott Kull, the associate athletic director of external operations, said he did not know where the ban was printed and that he did not know where the public could find it.

    Kull said the squad had always been a game day team and would continue to be one in the future, although he said he wanted the team to continue to grow in a Q&A on gofrogs.com. He also would not comment on the date of the ban of basket tosses.

    But according to a September 2008 Skiff article, Kull was quoted as saying, “I don’t know what programs have had catastrophic injuries and which have not, but my assumption would be that they are related to cheerleaders being tossed in the air, and we don’t do that.”

    In the TCU Spirit guide and handbook, the only mention of a ban of basket tosses was stated under safety: “TCU Cheer follows [American Association of Cheerleading Coaches & Administrators] guidelines and upholds all TCU modifications, such as no basket tosses on TCU property.”

    Spencer said the TCU squad followed the rules by practicing in an off-campus facility starting in January. The squad practiced basket tosses twice a week until the competition.

    Once the basket tosses were not allowed in the squad’s routine, Spencer said she knew the team had a disadvantage.

    Lyndsey Evans, a sophomore journalism major, said the team did not originally receive a finalist spot. But a last-minute routine change and performance success in the Challenge Cup secured the team a finalist spot.

    Evans said the team was excited to receive a finalist spot and eventually placed sixth.

    “We knew we had nothing to lose,” she said. “We even beat three teams who did basket tosses.”