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Will the NCAA Consider Cheerleading a Sport?

A common question when addressing Title IX is whether cheerleading is a sport. Colleges and universities have argued that cheerleading is a sport for the purposes of Title IX and, specifically, have argued competitive cheer teams are engaged in intercollegiate athletic competition. In Biediger v. Quinnipiac University, the United States District Court, District of Connecticut (“District Court”) ruled and the Second Circuit affirmed that the thirty (30) roster positions for competitive cheerleading members could not be counted for Title IX purposes because the activity did not “yet” afford women genuine participation opportunities in a varsity sport. The District Court stated “acro lacks what every other varsity men’s team sponsored by Quinnipiac enjoys: the chance to participate in an NCAA-sponsored championship.” The District Court further stated acrobatics and tumbling are not recognized by the NCAA as a sport or an emerging sport.

The characterization of cheerleading as not qualifying as a sport may soon change. In early December 2016, the International Olympic Committee (“IOC”) recognized cheerleading as a sport and granted the International Cheer Union provisional recognition as the governing body of cheerleading. Granting provisional recognition is a step towards cheerleading being offered as an Olympic sport. With the IOC taking a position that cheerleading is a sport, it will be interesting to see whether the NCAA adds competitive cheerleading to the list of emerging sports. Based on the rulings in Biediger v. Quinnipiac University, it appears that the NCAA acknowledging competitive cheerleading as an intercollegiate sport will open the door to counting cheerleading participation opportunities for the purposes of Title IX.

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