After a tumultuous last year, the University’s cheerleading squad is back on its feet and ready for action.
The squad was considered an Activities and Services organization under the auspices of student government for a majority of the 2002-2003 school year. As an A&S organization, the SGA provides some funding but extra money must be raised by the group.
Therefore, the adviser, Angela Hawkins, and the team members were forced to raise their own funds and find sponsorships.
“Student activities allotted us only so much money, and what was not covered we had to beg for or come out of the pocket,” said April Jones, 19, a sophomore pharmacy student from Jacksonville. Jones played an integral part on last year’s football and basketball cheerleading squads.
After Hawkins’ resignation in the spring semester, the team was transferred over to the athletic department and turned into a sport. The squad did not remain as a sport for long though, before going back to being under the sponsorship of the SGA.
Through all of this, the group of young ladies won the National Black College Cheerleading Competition.
This year they have a new coach in Karen Colson and the full support of the athletic department behind them. The cheerleaders receive $1,000 from SGA as an A&S organization but the majority of their funding comes from the athletic department.
“The athletic department is being reorganized,” Colson said. “The marketing department is looking into our funding and sponsorships.”
After this year, all of the squad’s funds will come solely from the athletic department, though not as a sport, and they will be completely detached from the SGA.
“The NCAA does not view cheerleading as a sport,” said Jonathan Evans, assistant athletic director for NCAA compliance. “So as far as funding, they won’t receive any money like that.”
Colson is looking forward to taking the program to the next level. Plans were in place to add males to the squad for the current year, but because of the transitions that took place last year they were stalled.
“Depending on the budget, we will be allowed to add males,” Colson said. “Our first tryout will probably be at the end of the fall semester.”
The cheerleading squad is also involved in the university’s spirit team. Included in that team are the FAMU Elite, Emerald Dancers, VENOM, and Junior Cheerleaders.
The spirit team cheers at all sporting events to garner as much school spirit from the students as possible. This collaborative effort is also headed by Colson.
“Any group interested in performing for FAMU is welcome to join,” said Colson. “We’re trying to group all of the efforts together.”
To be a cheerleader on the university squad, students must have at least 12 credit hours and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. There’s a one-year commitment to keep it competitive and accessible.
Dominique Drake can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org