Is cheerleading really a sport? A federal judge in Bridgeport, Conn., will let us know.
Judge Stefan Underhill will preside over a U.S. District Court trial beginning Monday to decide whether cheerleading can be counted as a sport by schools looking for ways to meet gender-equality requirements, The Associated Press reports.
The decision is part of a lawsuit that was filed last year by members of the Quinnipiac University women’s volleyball team and its coach, Robin Sparks, after the school decided to eliminate women’s volleyball in favor of a competitive cheer squad because it was cheaper.
The verdict will potentially set a precedent going forward for how cheerleading is defined.
"What makes this case significant is that, as far as I know, this will be the first time any court has been asked to rule whether competitive cheer is a sport for Title IX purposes," said attorney Jon Orleans, who represents the volleyball players.
Title IX is the 1972 federal law that mandates equal opportunities for both men and women in athletics.
An activity can be considered a sport under Title IX if it has coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season, and a governing organization. The activity also must have competition as its primary goal — not just the support of other athletic teams.
School cheer coach Mary Anne Powers defended cheerleading as a competitive sport in last year’s hearing, saying her team is comprised of athletes, mostly elite gymnasts.
Underhill will also have to decide whether Quinnipiac violates Title IX requirements by improperly manipulating the size of rosters of its other teams.