Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Florida International eliminates its cheerleading squad

Seriously: how can you have a college football team without cheerleaders or a band?

Currently ranked fourth in the country, Florida International University's cheerleading squad has often enjoyed more success than the football and basketball teams it roots for year in and year out.

But when FIU's fledgling football team takes the field this fall, the pompoms and pyramids will be conspicuously absent.

In a year when public universities statewide are slashing academic programs and laying off employees, FIU's cheerleading team is the latest to get the ax.

The decision follows FIU's recent move to eliminate its marching band -- also a fixture at football games.

I know times are tough, but I'm not aware of any other FBS program making cuts as drastic as this. The lack of a cheerleading squad or a band stifles student participation in the program and significantly detracts from the college football gameday experience. Given the other problems facing the FIU Pathers football program - the fact that it has never had a winning season in its short existence, or the fact that its 2008 attendance (13,852 fans per game) was next-to-last in FBS - you'd think that FIU adiminstrators would want to avoid taking actions that would make FIU football games even less attractive for people to attend. Especially since the amount of money being saved is rather paltry in the context of the budget of an FBS football program:

Doing without a cheerleading squad will save FIU an estimated $45,000 annually. FIU's cheerleading coach, however, protested the way university administrators handled the decision. For one, FIU just recently finished recruiting this year's squad -- which required extensive tryouts and interviews.

Coach Maria George -- a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader -- also questioned why FIU administrators hadn't responded to her offer to work for free and to finance the cheerleading team through private sponsorships and donations.

Hmmm... University administrators making poorly-timed decisions and refusing to accept input from those being affected? That sounds familiar.

It remains to be seen if the loss of a band and a cheerleading squad will have a negative effect on the FIU program's fan support. But it might not matter if the Panthers cannot find a way to improve on its .262 all-time football record. As somebody commented on another forum: "now there's nothing to distract the fans from the ineptitude that is FIU football."

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