Oregon Continues plan to cut wrestling
The athletic department's decision to discontinue wrestling and reinstate its baseball team after a more than 25-year hiatus has caused considerable controversy among sports fans. Another part of the decision has received less press coverage, but has ramifications just as long lasting for the University. To comply with Title IX requirements, meant to ensure parity between men's and women's sports, the athletic department will add women's competitive cheer to its roster of intercollegiate sports.
The controversy stemming from the decision raises the question of what a sport is, and what should count as a sport for the purpose of Title IX.
Few would claim that cheerleading is not physically demanding, or that it does not demand a high level of athleticism from participants. Indeed, the considerable gymnastic ability required for competitive cheerleading would seem to make it a good choice for a sport.
Nevertheless, competitive cheer, as athletic as it is, is still more on par with competitive dance than it is with other sports. Although competitive cheer does include gymnastic elements, it is not gymnastics. It is similar to synchronized swimming in that both are team sports, but are designed for entertainment, unlike their counterparts, gymnastics and swimming, which are purely athletic in origin.
Because the goal of Title IX is equality for women in sports, the athletic department should have chosen a sport equal in athleticism to baseball. Picking competitive cheer fulfills the letter - not the spirit - of the law.
Beyond the athletic element, competitive cheer is a bad deal for student athletes. The purpose of intercollegiate athletics is to allow students to compete with their peers from other schools, but the University of Maryland is the only other university in the nation that treats cheerleading as a varsity sport. The extremely limited nature of cheerleading as an intercollegiate sport will result in the team needing to spend much more on travel than it for a sport that could be played closer to home, and in the women participating needing to miss more school in order to travel to far-away events.