The Pitt News

Cheer and dance teams not considered a sport by Pitt

By Hunter Bergman / For The Pitt News

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Like many University athletes, members of Pitt’s cheer and dance teams often struggle to find the perfect balance between practice and classwork. There’s just one major difference: the University does not recognize either group as official sports.

The cheer and dance teams practice three to five times per week from September to April, but, because their role is to support other athletes, they often don’t receive the same treatment as students on other athletic teams, despite similar time commitments. Theresa Nuzzo, the coach of the cheer and dance teams, said in a statement through the Athletic Department that while the team is “not recognized as a sport at the University,” the students are “exceptional ambassadors” for Pitt, which is their official role.

Though the cheerleaders and dancers each receive one academic credit per year for participation on the teams, they do not receive any scholarship funds until their senior year, which pays for books only, Nuzzo said.

Pitt Athletics funds the Spirit Group partially, Nuzzo said, but team members are left to make up some expenses. Personal items may include hair styling tools or makeup. 

The teams also have the opportunity to travel and support men’s and women’s basketball games at tournaments, along with football bowl games. The University pays for meals and lodging on away trips, tournaments and bowl games.  

Pitt’s cheerleaders and dance team make up Pitt’s Spirit Group, and, because they serve as ambassadors of the University, the University may ask them to support local groups within the community on nights that they aren’t supporting Pitt athletes.

Cheer and dance team members may travel to Daytona Beach, Fla., in April to compete at the College Nationals, which is optional, Nuzzo said. While there, team members would be “sharing the financial commitment with the University.” Nuzzo declined to elaborate on the specifics of the financial details of Nationals.

Like other student athletes, cheer and dance team members’ schedules are hectic and stressful, with long days.

Cassidy Davis, a Pitt dancer and junior double majoring in communications and digital media, said time management can be hard because of the length of the dance team’s practices.

“We practice most nights, and we practice for as short as two hours and sometimes as long as six hours,” Davis said.

 “We cheer home football and basketball games, which can be difficult due to basketball overlapping football season,” Sarah Quinn, a sophomore Pitt cheerleader, said. “We also support volleyball, soccer, wrestling and gymnastics.”

“We participate in many kick-offs, charity events, walks, fundraisers and other University-related events,” Lizzy Yerecic, a sophomore dual business and Spanish major and cheerleader, said.

However, for many of the members of Pitt cheer and dance teams, it’s all worth it.

“Our uniforms, poms, shoes and warm ups are paid for by the University. However, we’re required to pay for the personal items necessary for the activity,” Kristen Tunno, a junior applied developmental psychology major and dancer, said.

“Doing the “Sweet Caroline” at football games gives me goosebumps every time,” Davis said. “Being on the team has made my experience at Pitt unforgettable, and I am so grateful for it.”

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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper
Cheer and dance teams not considered a sport by Pitt