On Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals held that competitive cheerleading does not qualify as a sport under Title IX and that the Quinnipiac University had discriminated against women by eliminating the women’s volleyball team and replacing it with competitive cheerleading.
Though the court admitted that competitive cheerleading is “physically challenging” and requires “strength, agility, and grace” the Quinnipiac program does not have the qualities needed of an athletic sport fit for university rules and regulations.
The decision to categorize a sport under Title IX is made by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which enforces the law requiring schools to provide equal opportunities to men and women. In 2008 the OCR issued two letters observing that competitive cheerleading was not presumed to be a sport and its participants could not count as athletes under Title IX.
The former Qunnipiac’s women’s volleyball team brought the case, after the university replaced volleyball with competitive cheerleading during the 2009-19 season. In 2010, U.S. district Judge Stefan Underhill found that Quinnipiac had manipulated its team rosters by undercounting men and overcounting women to make it appear as if the genders were equally represented. Underhill refused to consider the competitive cheerleaders as varsity athletes as competitive cheerleading was not considered as a varsity sport by the OCR. He also order the university to reinstate the volleyball team.
Quinnipiac had appealed that the thirty odd competitive cheerleaders qualified as varsity athletes and they should have been counted in the final tally of athletes by the university.
The 2nd Circuit disagreed with the contentions of Quinnipiac university but held that they did “not foreclose the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, might some day warrant recognition as a varsity sport.” Justice Reena Raggi wrote on behalf of the majority, “But, like the district court, we conclude that the record evidence shows that ‘that time has not yet arrived.’”