With the addition of eight men, the Florida A&M University cheerleading squad has become the largest in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Brandi Tatum, fourth year head cheerleading coach, learned of the good news this summer during around table discussion with other MEAC cheerleading coaches.
” This is the biggest squad we have had since the ’80s,” Tatum said. ” I just want the African American culture to accept cheerleading as a sport.”
The new additions make the squad more competitive with other coed teams. Tatum said she hopes the 30-member team will finally be recognized as a major sport on FAMU’s campus.
“I want to bring students to FAMU for not only academics but for cheerleading also,” Tatum said.
FAMU cheerleaders have come a long way. The team made its first appearance in the athletic directory this year. Some members are thrilled about this season for the squad.
“I’m very privileged to be on this squad; it’s very moving,” said Ashley Gearrett, 19, a sophomore broadcast journalism student from Orlando.
This is Gearrett’s second year on the squad, and she is excited about what the men can bring to the squad.
” I’m glad to have more guys because that means more strength,” Gearrett said.
Tatum said that she felt compelled to add more men to the team to give her squad a certain dynamic that it was missing.
” I have been cheerleading for 15 years and I feel the males on the squad help the team be strong, makes stunts go higher, and make the girls feel stronger,” said Stephen Williams, 21, a junior music education student from Jacksonville.
Williams is the team’s captain. He said his main goal is to keep the squad motivated.
” If one falls we all fall, if one rises we all rise,” Williams said.
While the team has more members than ever, it is struggling to make due with less money.
The team is trying to weather the storm of recent budget cuts by raising money. ” We are accepting donations to the FAMU cheerleading squad, we want our team to be like the other teams that cheer in the NCAA,” Tatum said.
As a result of the budget cuts, the cheerleading squad has faced many obstacles. They were not able to have pom poms for the first home game and some of the girls have different uniforms due the cuts.
“Student government has helped us out by giving us additional money,” Tatum said. She also said that in order for her squad to be successful and to represent FAMU in the best way, it will need money. ” Now that we are coed, I feel that we have the chance to win the MEAC title and hopefully compete against FSU,” Tatum said.