Just asking: repeating the firing of Scott Frost, why isn’t cheerleading/dancing an NCAA sport?

Just asking: repeating the firing of Scott Frost, why isn't cheerleading/dancing an NCAA sport?

Welcome to the Lincoln Journal Star’s Just Askin’ Mailbag.

The premise is straight forward. You ask me some questions, I try to answer them. It doesn’t have to be just football. Could be volleyball, basketball, softball, baseball – you name it.

If you’d like your question included in next week’s mailbag, find me on Twitter at @Amie_Just or email ajust@journalstar.com.

Common topics this week for all of you in the wake of Scott Frost’s resignation.

Here are some of the questions asked…

Why fire Scott Frost now? – Multiple

It’s complicated. Yes, Frost’s takeover would have been cut in half if Nebraska had waited until October 1 to fire him, but Trev Alberts felt the situation needed to be remedied ASAP.

In response to the “Why now” question, Alberts said: “We owed it to the players to give them a different voice, maybe a slightly different vision, give them some confidence and opportunities. … We had to do something. We had to inject something into this team to give them the confidence and hopefully help them compete.”

It’s no use crying over spilled milk. Here’s to looking ahead.

What will happen to Scott Frost’s suspension? – Shawn B.

Frost had not served his five-day suspension after he was found to have broken NCAA counting coach rules, but that remains with Frost—not college. So when he shows up elsewhere, he’ll have to abide by the NCAA ruling (unless his new program successfully appeals).

When are Nick Henrich and Travis Vokolek coming back? – Multiple

We asked Frost last week and they continued “day to day” and the same chorus continued during Joseph’s press conference on Tuesday.

Reminder: Henrich has a hand/arm injury and Vokolek’s condition affects his ankle. Both injuries were sustained against Northwestern and have not played since.

Why doesn’t cheerleading/spirit squad count as a sport in Nebraska? – Multiple

For those not involved in the Twitter sphere, I tweeted over the weekend that Mickey Joseph is the first black head coach in Nebraska history, regardless of the sport.

That framing made a lot of people angry within the cheer, dance, and spirit squad community, as they felt I was erasing the achievements of Erynn Butzke, who has been Nebraska’s chief spirit squad coach since 2011.

I should have typed “regardless of the NCAA sanctioned sport”, but I didn’t. However, that’s what I meant. I just wanted to celebrate Joseph’s achievement. I didn’t want to do this while belittling someone else.

I am convinced that cheer and dance are sports. That is not what is being discussed here. The problem is how the NCAA defines team sports.

While spiritual squads at different universities get the typical benefits that athletes would get on any other team, cheering and dancing are not considered NCAA-sanctioned sports. The reasoning for that is due to federal laws, including Title IX.

In 2012, a federal appeals court ruled that universities should not count cheerleading as a sport when trying to meet Title IX requirements. The premise at the heart of the matter was how Quinnipiac University tried to ignore its women’s volleyball program in an effort to add competitive cheerleading instead. The court ruled that competitive cheerleading does not meet Title IX’s definition of a varsity sport.

The decision reads in part: “We recognize record evidence showing that competitive cheerleading can be physically challenging, requiring competitors to possess ‘strength, agility and grace’. Likewise, we do not rule out the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, could one day warrant recognition as a varsity sport, but, like the court, we conclude that the record-breaking evidence shows that ‘that time has not yet come’.”

Under Title IX definitions, activities can be considered a sport if there are coaches, training and competitions during fixed seasons with a governing organization. In addition, competition should be the primary goal of the activity, rather than supporting other teams.

The co-ed aspect of some spirit squads across the country also acts as a hurdle, as the NCAA traditionally looks at sports in the binary: male or female. Not both.

However, it is not for a lack of effort.

In 2014, an all-female competitive cheer sport called STUNT filed with the NCAA to be considered an “emerging sport.” The NCAA turned it down at the time, but it’s back on the agenda for January 2023. This time, it feels like STUNT has a better chance this time around, as the boards of NCAA Division I, Division II, and Division III passed the legislation before the member vote.

Other sports that emerged through the emerging sports program have caught on in Nebraska, such as bowling and beach volleyball.

That was an incredibly long-winded response, but right now, cheering/dancing doesn’t count as an NCAA-sanctioned sport in Nebraska. Maybe ever.

That said, a legal definition shouldn’t negate everything Butzke has put on the table for Nebraska’s mind squads. But the nasty “NCAA-sanctioned” part unfortunately keeps her achievements out of the spotlight when it comes to the recognized varsity sports in Nebraska.

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