Cheer coach quits


Michelle Herrick And Casey Wonnenberg

SDSU Cheerleading Coach Kari Westlund resigned Aug. 24 after she was denied a significant pay raise and her proposal for changing the squad’s stunt guidelines was rejected.

A little over a week later, Westlund asked for her job back, but the athletic department refused to hire her back.

“I swallowed my pride, but they wouldn’t swallow theirs,” she said.

Assistant to the athletic director Keith Mahlum wouldn’t comment on Westlund’s resignation because it’s a personnel issue, but he did say the athletic department is currently looking for a new cheerleading coach. He didn’t know when the new coach would be hired.

Westlund, who was paid $1,000 a year, said the time away from her newborn daughter and husband wasn’t worth it.

“I love it, but there comes a time when I have to stand up for myself,” said Westlund, who also works at Century 21 as a realtor. “I have a family now; I have to weigh the benefits.”

In her salary proposal, Westlund requested a $5,000 salary, citing that she works at least 20 hours a week, which breaks down into $1.64 an hour. The athletic department did offer her a raise, but only $500 more than her original salary.

“Our coach put in a lot of work for the small amount she got paid,” said cheerleading co-captain Cassie Troelstrup, a senior apparel and merchandising major. “She was extremely passionate about cheerleading and with helping the squad get to a DI level. I think she was burned out because the athletic department failed to give us the respect and recognition we deserved and have worked so hard to achieve.”

Also part of Westlund’s decision to quit was the university’s resistance against the cheerleaders performing more complicated stunts. Westlund said the squad is limited to performing high school level stunts.

“It’s frustrating that SDSU doesn’t recognize that cheerleading is a sport,” Westlund said.

The cheerleading squad had a disagreement with the athletic department over the stunting rules at last year’s final home basketball game in February. The department objected to the cheerleaders’ Friday night halftime performance saying it didn’t follow policy, Westlund said.

SDSU’s Spirit Squad policy prohibits the cheerleaders from performing pyramids higher than two people. The standard for most universities is two and a half people high, based on guidelines set forth by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors.

This summer Westlund worked on a 66-page stunting guideline proposal, which would have brought the current policy up to AACCA stunt standards. The response from the athletic department was a one-page letter saying that no changes would be made.

Mahlum said the policies are in place for safety reasons.

“The two-people high pyramid is pretty standard,” he said. “We haven’t had any injuries yet, and we don’t want any.”

Troelstrup said the policy squelches the squad’s potential.

“It doesn’t make sense,” she said. “The (SDSU) handbook says that the athletic department will support the spirit squad members and help them in reaching their highest potential.”

Troelstrup and co-captain Ashely Huls are coaching the squad until a new coach is hired. Troelstrup has been cheering at SDSU for four years and Huls has been cheering for three years.

“It will never be the same without our coach, but we’re doing great,” said Troelstrup. “We have a lot of passionate people on our squad.”