The University cheerleading team is suffering a difficult year, in part because of financial disarray. The team has pointed to poor funding and failed University support as the reasons surrounding its frustrations.
During spring break, the team was looking forward to joining the men’s basketball team at the 2008 MEAC Championship tournament, then staying afterward to participate in the MEAC cheerleading competition. But, plans were halted because of improper authorization. “William Hayes and Coretta Ellison came up to us during the MEAC tournament basketball game in South Carolina,” said Chicka Ofuani, captain of the cheerleading team. “Hayes told us that we could not stay and compete at the competition.”
Athletic Director William Hayes said the former coach of the FAMU cheerleading team, Felicia Barnes, did not follow the proper procedures for requesting permission to compete in the MEAC cheerleading competition. Barnes’ contract expired March 12.
“The cheerleading coach reserved hotel rooms without any authorization from us,” he said. “We had already reserved rooms for the basketball team, the band and the cheerleaders.”
Hayes said he and his administrative assistant, Coretta Ellison, had a meeting with the 17 cheerleaders on March 4 concerning their position on competing in the MEAC cheerleading competition.
“Our philosophy is that the purpose of the cheerleading is to cheer for the basketball team,” Hayes said. “I feel like all they wanted to do was cheer in the cheerleading competition.”
Ofuani, a senior psychology student from Tallahassee, said the women were very upset when they were told they could not compete.
“He (Hayes) said that we were selfish for wanting to stay and compete in the competition,” she said. “We told him that he didn’t have a problem cheering and supporting the team. We were very emotional throughout the meeting.”
Along with the alledged undermining of the athletic department officials by the cheerleading coaches, Hayes said the athletic department did not have the excess money to fund the girls’ hotel and food accommodations to stay for the cheerleading competition.
Hayes said the cheerleading team received a $12,000 budget in August. The budget included everything that was purchased for the team from August 2007 until now, including socks, T-shirts and bags.
Even with the allotted budget, Ofuani said each girl was required to pay $206 at the beginning of the season.
“That money included gym rental fees, bloomers, socks, shoes, shirts, and bags, she said. “The coaches never told us that we had a budget allocated to us.”
Hayes’ budget claims conflict with the reports of Erica Wilcox, the athletic department’s business manager, who said the cheerleading team does not receive a budget for the year.
“It’s not really a budget,” she said. “We allocate money on a need basis. In August the team submitted a request to the athletic department for $8,400. We supplied the cheerleading team with money that they used for new uniforms and cheerleading camps. Travel arrangements were not included in the money given to the team.”
According to Ofuani, the cheerleading team is not allocated money for the necessities of the team.
Ellison and Barnes refused to comment.