Adam Zobel & Crystal Hohenthaner
Due to an apparent miscommunication between SDSU’s athletic department and cheerleading squad, the basketball doubleheader against Minnesota State, Mankato, on Saturday evening included a protest by the members of the Jackrabbit cheerleading squad.
The squad chose not to perform during Saturday’s game after being told that their stunts during Friday’s games had violated SDSU safety rules. Instead of altering their routine, the squad attended the game dressed in street clothes and supported the Jacks as fans, sitting near their customary spot on the sideline.
Friday, during the men’s game against St. Cloud State, the cheerleaders performed their halftime routine.
Executive Vice President for Administration, Michael Reger saw the routine and felt that it violated SDSU’s guidelines for the squad. Reger said SDSU’s guidelines, which are based on rules set by the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors, state that pyramids may not be more than two body lengths high.
Reger said he informed the Athletic Department that the stunts violated the rules and the squad would have to eliminate the offending pyramids; otherwise, the cheerleaders would no longer be allowed to perform at SDSU athletic events.
Kari Westlund, SDSU’s cheerleading coach, said that Rob Peterson, on behalf of Reger, informed the squad that they had performed illegal stunts. However, Westlund said that he, “Didn’t specify which stunt.”
“All stunts had been done at previous events,” Westlund said. “No one had ever complained about them before.”
Reger had opposing comments on the stunts.
“The cheerleaders were clearly aware of this policy,” Reger said. “I am not going to compromise safety in this case.”
Along with the squad’s decision to protest the stunt restrictions, the group also released a letter, written by Westlund, expressing their concerns.
The letter addresses the fact that due to SDSU’s guidelines, the squad members have to inform camp attendees and cheerleaders from other colleges that certain stunts are not permitted at SDSU. The letter also stated that it is “embarrassing” for the squad to be unable to teach or show advanced stunts that are allowed on the high school level and at other South Dakota colleges. The entire body of that letter will be available for viewing on the Collegian’s Website.
While the cheerleaders express that certain restrictions put on the squad are relatively new, Reger said the two-person limit policy has been in effect for over 15 years in an effort to promote safety.
Miscommunication and misunderstanding continues between the cheerleaders and the administration on this issue.
“We don’t understand why they restricted us,” freshman Brittney Vander Pol said. “No one has been hurt.”
The cheerleaders recognize that risk is involved in their activities. They also note that other athletic activities are risky.
“You wouldn’t take tackling out of football because its is part of the sport,” Vander Pol said. “Stunting is part of our sport.”
The squad said that the administration’s reaction was especially bitter for the squad after they had “poured their heart and soul” into the Friday night performance.
“We’ve had a lot of people complimenting us on our performance,” said junior Ashley Huls, a second-year squad member.
“What’s the point of the program if you can’t advance your skill level?” said co-captain Adam Knutsen.
SDSU is likely to host at least one post-season basketball game, but future performances by the cheerleading squad are, at this point, not gauranteed.
“That will be up to the squad,” Westlund said. “I will support any decision they make.”