Ducks: Cheerleading ruling doesn't apply to Oregon

EUGENE — University of Oregon officials say a federal judge's ruling that competitive cheerleading is not an official sport does not apply to the Ducks' program.

U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill ordered a Connecticut school to keep its women's volleyball team, disagreeing with a claim that the cheerleading squad and other moves kept the school in compliance with Title IX.

Oregon dropped wrestling and added competitive cheer three years ago when it brought back baseball. Emphasis was shifted from cheerleading to "stunts and gymnastics," and the team concluded its first season this spring.

Renee Baumgartner, senior women's administrator at Oregon, says that change in focus, as well as other key differences with Quinnipiac University's program, means Oregon won't be affected by the decision.

"It is crucial that intercollegiate athletic programs meet the interests and abilities of current and future students," Baumgartner said in a statement. "By offering and developing Stunts and Gymnastics, the UO is fulfilling its obligation both under Title IX and continuing to expand opportunities for our current and future students."

Competitive cheer is not sanctioned by the NCAA.

Besides Quinnipiac and Oregon, only Baylor and Maryland treat competitive cheer as a varsity sport in Division I. All those schools are part of the fledgling National Competitive Stunts and Tumbling Association, which was established in January and acts as the sport's governing body.

An activity can be considered a sport under Title IX if it meets specific criteria. It must have coaches, practices, competitions during a defined season and a governing organization. The activity also must have competition as its primary goal — not merely the support of other athletic teams.

Baumgartner is confident Oregon's program will gain acceptance.

"Because of the interest in the sport, the way we created the sport at Oregon and NCSTA's work to standardize and promote it, stunts and tumbling will continue to grow and likely gain emerging sports status quickly," Baumgartner said.

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