College Dance Team Central

Sunday, June 28, 2009

FIU Cuts Cheerleading, Golden Dazzlers To Stay

By Jorge Valens / Asst. News Director
FIU Student Media
Additional Miami Herald Article

Cheerleading program: Few alternatives to survive


The FIU cheerleading program has been eliminated as part of Athletics’ $1 million budget cut for the 2009-10 fiscal year.

“This economy has forced us to make some very tough choices,” said Athletics Director Pete Garcia in a written statement to Student Media. “The decision to discontinue our cheerleading program was one of them."

The decision to eliminate the program comes after the University’s move to cut all funding to the Golden Panther Band. Athletics is currently reaching out to local high school marching bands to perform at football games.

According to Richard Kelch, director of media relations for Athletics, the department would save $45,000 annually by eliminating the program.

However, head cheerleading coach Maria George told Student Media that the budget for the cheerleading program is in fact $25,000.

George said she offered Athletics to coach the program for free and without an operating budget, but Athletics declined the offer.

Kelch said the department would still need money to run the program, even without George’s salary and operating budget, and that Athletics would be open to keep the cheerleading team if they were able to secure a recurring sponsor.

“The key word is recurring,” Kelch said. “We don’t want to find ourselves in the same position next year.”

The Golden Dazzlers, the University's competitive dance team, will continue to be funded and will fill the void left by the cheerleading team during games.

The Golden Dazzlers have 18 members and perform at all basketball and football games as well as events such as Midnight Madness and Freshman Convocation.

Their style, however, is more focused on hip hop and jazz dance routines rather than traditional cheering routines.

George said she thinks that Athletics wanted to go in a different direction.

“Athletics is trying to move toward a more professional cheerleader, which is a dance-type program such as the [Miami] Heat,” she said.

Athletics would not comment on why the Dazzlers were chosen over the cheerleading program.

George said she now must contact students who have committed to FIU specifically to be a part of the program.

“A lot of my student-athletes, they chose FIU because of our cheerleading,” George said. “I’ve got kids all around the country coming in to cheer here, that I’m making calls right now to tell them we don’t have a program.”

“I was so proud to say that I was an FIU cheerleader,” said cheerleader Sasha Velasco, a newcomer to the team. “I was looking forward to progressing [in the program] and being on a team that would push me to my limits and now they just pulled that right from under me.”

The cheerleading team has been the recipient of much success, most notably placing fourth in the Small Coed I-A division for the 2009 NCA/NDA Collegiate National Championships in April.

“We go to Daytona, Florida for college nationals every year, which is like the Rose Bowl of our sport,” George said. “They’re cutting a program that produces award-winning cheerleaders.”

The team is currently exploring alternative options to raise funds.

“We’re looking into other avenues to see if we can perhaps get enough support throughout the FIU community and the community in South Florida to help us stay as an organized sport,” George said.

The cheerleading team is currently seeking corporate sponsorships and has organized various fund-raising events on and off campus.

On June 24, the team set up in the Graham Center Pit to collect donations and create awareness about their situation.

They also partnered with the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity the following day for a fundraising party.

Lastly, on June 26, the cheerleaders organized a car wash.

Fliers have been posted in various spots throughout the Graham Center, informing students the different ways they can help and a schedule of their fund-raising events.

Student government has become aware of the cut and is discussing options with Athletics.

“We are looking at all alternatives in helping maintain the cheerleading program,” said Student Government Council at Modesto Maidique Campus President Anthony Rionda. “We understand the position the Athletic Department is in in cutting their budget but [we] are working our best to help this program continue.”

The cheerleaders, both veterans of the program and newcomers, are responding to the cuts with surprise and disappointment.

“I’m still in shock,” said co-captain Jenny Mesa. “We weren’t prepared for it.”

According to veteran cheerleader Erika Otero, however, this is just a minor setback.

“We really are title hungry,” she said. “This is going to be a stepping stone but we’ll get there.”

The final option for the team is to limit the amount of competitions they attend and become a student club, which receives funding from the Council for Student Organizations.

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