Cheerleading Policies

Updated April 3, 2006


This statement is intended to inform cheerleaders (parents, relatives, other interested parties and prospective cheerleaders) of various policies (e.g., travel, appearances, alcoholic beverages, drugs/drug testing, and nutrition) of the University of Kentucky cheerleading program. In all policy and program matters, members of the cheer squad shall first be good, law-abiding citizens of the nation, state, and city, and secondly, shall be exemplary representatives of the University of Kentucky. These policies are as follows:


The UK cheerleading program is a student activity. As a student activity, its first and foremost responsibility to the student is to support and not to compromise the student's academic career. Secondly, the program should aid in developing the student participant into a responsible, mature and independent adult. Specifically, the program is a means of improving the student's mental and physical well being. Cheerleading is an activity where the student (1) will be provided leadership training; (2) will develop the ability to make decisions; (3) will enhance the ability to respond to life's situations, e.g., conflict/frustration, control of heat, anger and hate, win/loss, react without too much emotion; (4) will contribute to social development, e.g., awareness of one's self, development of self-confidence, development of interpersonal relationships; and (5) generally will maximize the opportunity for student growth, change and maturity.

The primary purpose of the cheerleader is to be a member of the team, which has as its goal the support of intercollegiate athletics and the University of Kentucky. That support is directed into three major areas, as follows: (1) to lead the cheers; to raise the level of fan support for intercollegiate athletics; to lead in positive vocal support for the team; to solicit that support from Kentucky fans and to project that support to the University and its teams; (2) to participate in the athletic activity known as cheerleading by performing gymnastics, partner stunts, motions, pyramids, dance movements; to perfect this athletic activity for keeping the crowd attention/direction focused on the field/floor where the intercollegiate activity is taking place, and for entertainment and competitive purposes; and (3) to serve as public relations ambassadors of intercollegiate athletics and the University of Kentucky; to uphold, reflect and project the goals and ideals of the University; to appear at University activities, functions and programs, at charitable and public causes (not commercial/business purposes) to promote intercollegiate athletics and the University.


The University's cheer program has two squads, the Blue squad and the White squad. The Blue squad members cheer for football and men's basketball; the White squad members cheer for football, women's basketball, and volleyball . The Blue squad members primarily make up the squad, which competes for the National Championship; however, all members of both squads are eligible to compete, depending on academic standing, athletic ability, and proven performance.

Generally, sixteen to twenty members of the Blue and White squads are chosen at the spring tryouts, and later alternate members may be added by the coaches and advisor.

Cheerleading at the University of Kentucky is a unique student activity. The Cheer Program is budgeted in Athletics and performs primarily at events of the Athletic Association. The Cheer Coach reports to an Assistant Athletics Director for budget purposes and spirit activities are coordinated through appropriate athletics association officials. Unlike other sports of the Athletics Association, cheerleading is not governed by NCAA or SEC rules and regulations. It should be noted that both the NCAA and SEC mandate that AACCA Safety Guidelines (See Section XI. of this document) be followed at NCAA and SEC championships. Although not fitting nicely into the definition of a sport, cheerleaders are athletes and much of their activity at games and virtually all activity at competition is athletic. An advisor is assigned to the Cheer Program, much like student organizations have an advisor. The current Advisor to the Cheer Program is in the Office of Legal Counsel.


The University of Kentucky has a scholarship program for members of its cheerleading squads. Several different scholarships are offered; these scholarships are based on different eligibility requirements. However, the availability of funds determines if scholarships are given and, if given, the amounts of the scholarships.

The Blue squad usually consists of twenty-one members; these members are the squad members who are selected at the spring tryout process, additional members who are selected by the Coach and Advisor, the Wildcat mascot and, on some occasions, a “Mike-man”. Sixteen members receive a scholarship, which is generally equivalent to the amount of in-state tuition. This amount does not include any special fees, e.g., health fee, activities fee, etc. The funds for these scholarships come from funds in the President's office and the Athletics Association.

The Mr. and Mrs. Ralph McCracken, Jr. Cheerleading Scholarship Endowment was created in 1981. The accumulated interest on the trust endowment is used to award scholarships to cheerleaders (members of both the Blue and White squads) based solely on academic excellence. Under the endowment agreement, a three-person committee (usually the Cheerleader Advisor, a representative of the Dean of Students Office and the Blue squad Cheerleader Coach) decides an amount and number of scholarships each year. Generally, a scholarship amount is given to the male and female cheerleader with the highest grade point average; usually all other cheerleaders with a 3.0 grade point average receive lesser amount.

The annual interest on a second endowment, the Bill Blount, Jr. Memorial Endowment, creates a scholarship, which is awarded to the cheerleader who has the greatest financial need. The need is based on records in the Student Financial Aid Office.

Five or six scholarships in varying amounts between $1,000 and $1,500 each are also awarded to cheerleaders. These scholarships are from private funds (individual donors who designate their annual UK contribution to the cheerleading program). The scholarships are awarded by the advisor, upon advice and consideration of the coach, with consideration to recruitment needs financial needs, and payment of out-of-state tuition. In no case will cheerleading scholarships exceed the cost of tuition, room and board at the University of Kentucky.


A valuable education experience of the University of Kentucky cheerleaders is travel. Annually, the UK squad may travel from the Canadian border to the southern edges of the United States and from the East Coast to the West Coast. Occasionally, the squad members travel to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and Europe. In most cases, an Official University chaperone (the cheerleader Advisor, Coach, or a designee) will travel with the squad. Every effort is made for cheerleaders to meet different people and go to different places. Generally, time on away trips is not spent in hotel rooms, but in exploring the town, city or countryside. Cheerleaders are encouraged, but not required, to tour the Biltmore house in Asheville, NC, to walk through the theater district of New York City, to visit Pat O'Brien's off Bourbon Street in New Orleans, to experience unknown varieties of seafood in Honolulu, to taste raw fish dishes in Tokyo, to visit the Back Bay area of Boston, etc. It is a part of the philosophy of the program that cheerleading “will contribute to social development” of the squad members. Traveling to a variety of places, experiencing the local flavor of city, town or country visited, and meeting an assortment of people is a part of this social development. One who is not interested in travel and the experiences of travel is encouraged not to try out for the squad.

The primary emphasis of this policy focuses on the behavior of cheerleaders when they travel as representatives of the University. At all times, cheerleaders' behavior shall be exemplary. Behavior, which is loud, boisterous, rude, unrestrained, rough, rowdy, offensively harsh or discordant, unruly, etc., shall subject a cheerleader to discipline.

(Further information and rules on travel are contained in Section VI, E., 1-5, this document.)


In addition to football and basketball games, practices and pep rallies, cheerleaders attend a number of public relations and/or charitable events each year. Generally, cheerleaders do not make business or commercial appearances (as cheerleaders). Cheerleaders who appear at business or commercial events as individuals, not as UK cheerleaders, are required to notify and seek approval of the advisor. Similarly, the Wildcat mascot makes numerous public relations/charitable appearances each year. The Wildcat does not make business or commercial appearances.

The Cheer Coach or Advisor shall approve all appearances by the cheerleaders and/or the Wildcat mascot in advance. Appearances shall be at places and events, which are considered in good taste.

The cheerleaders shall appear only at events/activities, which will reflect positively on them as individuals, and as representatives of the Athletics Association and the University.

With due consideration to the size of the event, priority for appearances shall be in the following order: UK Athletic Association events/activities, UK Alumni Association and other UK events and activities, charitable events/activities, and public relations events/activities. Cheerleaders shall not make appearances at political events/activities. In committing to an appearance for the cheerleaders, the advisor and/or coach shall give first consideration to the student's academic career and, in particular, attendance at classes. Other considerations to be weighed include (a) number of activities in that week, (b) the function or contribution of the cheerleaders at the event/activity, (c) the nature of the event/activity, (d) cost and/or travel expenses and distance to the event/activity, and (e) other valid considerations.


As stated earlier, cheerleaders are expected, first, to be good, law-abiding citizens of the nations, state, and city. This expectation is foremost when it comes to alcoholic beverages. Cheerleaders are reminded that, as highly visible members of the University community, their actions and behavior are under constant observation. Absolutely while in uniform, but also while not in uniform, UK cheerleaders are known, subject to scrutiny, and can easily be the object of criticism for their behavior or actions, in particular, for indulging or for over-indulging in alcoholic beverages.

While traveling off the campus to away games or other official functions, it is strongly suggested that cheerleaders (who are 21 or over) neither consume nor possess alcoholic beverages. In most cases, the University of Kentucky cheerleaders will be under the age of 21, the legal age to consume alcoholic beverages in virtually all states.

Reality is that, as college students who appear and travel across the state and nation as public relations persons for the University, members of the squad will be exposed to the use of alcoholic beverages. Although attempts will be made to avoid functions where alcoholic beverages are being served, undoubtedly, the cheerleaders will attend some function or activity where alcoholic beverages are present. If a cheerleader has a particular objection to attending an event where alcoholic beverages are present or finds alcoholic beverages particularly offensive, he/she should make that fact known to the cheerleader coach and/or advisor immediately. Similarly, parents of cheerleaders are encouraged to do the same. The coach and/or advisor will make every effort to arrange for the cheerleader to be excused from that event/activity. In any case, where it is practical and feasible, an alternative form of entertainment will be offered to cheerleader(s) who do not want to be where alcoholic beverages are being served. If a cheerleader finds him/herself in an uncomfortable situation for any reason, but especially because of alcoholic beverages, he/she should inform the coach and/or advisor as soon as possible.

Members of the squad shall adhere to the following rules:

  • Cheerleaders shall not possess or drink alcoholic beverages in a University car, van or bus;
  • Cheerleaders shall not consume alcoholic beverages before or during a game or a practice;
  • Cheerleaders shall not offer to procure for or attempt to coerce cheerleaders who are under 21 or who do not want to drink alcoholic beverages into doing the same.
  • Cheerleaders who violate these rules shall be subject to serious disciplinary measures up to and including immediate dismissal from the squad.
  • In addition, University officials shall not purchase or furnish alcoholic beverages for cheerleaders at any University event/function.
  • In summary, cheerleaders are expected to be good citizens and, therefore, carefully and faithfully abide by University rules and regulations and the laws and ordinances of the city or state in which they live or travel.

    The University is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for the cheerleading program. Thus, conduct which involves the unlawful possession, use, dispensation, distribution or manufacture of controlled substances by a cheerleader while traveling for the University or at any official cheerleading functions/ activities shall result in termination from the UK cheer program. Similarly, the unlawful possession, use, dispensation, distribution or manufacture of controlled substances by a cheerleader at any other time shall result in appropriate discipline, up to and including termination from the cheer program; any sanction for such a violation outside of cheerleading functions/activities shall be with consideration to the potential embarrassment or bad reflection on the cheer program, UKAA and/or the University. The legal use of prescribed medicines under the direction of a UKAA or personal licensed physician is permitted.

    Like all UK athletes, members of the squad are subject to random drug testing. Urine analysis testing is used; the UKAA athletic training staff takes urine samples with testing results being analyzed by a certified laboratory. Any positive drug tests shall result in removal from the squad. The cheer program has a “zero tolerance” for illegal drug use. Any one that uses illegal drugs should not try out for the squad.


    A. Tryouts

    1. Anyone wishing to try out for cheerleading shall:
    a. attend one of the clinics taught by the cheerleaders,
    b. maintain a 2.0 grade point average,
    c. to tryout for the Blue and White squad, be accepted or in the process of being accepted to UK.

    2. For justifiable reason(s), the cheerleader coach and/or advisor can make an exception to rules A. 1. a. or c above.

    3. Only with special permission of the cheerleader coach and/or advisor can one try out for cheerleader after he/she has left either the Blue or White squad on a previous occasion.

    4. At least fourteen (14) cheerleaders consisting of seven females and seven males will be chosen at spring tryouts. The Wildcat mascot is chosen at mascot tryouts or is selected by the Coach and the Advisor and for all practicable purposes is considered a member of the cheer squad. More or less members maybe chosen during the tryout process.

    5. There may be additional members of the squad named after tryouts by the advisor and coach, with advice from the members of the squad. The Coach and the Advisor, in selecting additional members of the squad will give consideration to the physical size, general composition of the squad, academic grade point standing, placement in tryouts, etc. Also, a “mike” person may be a member of the squad; the advisor and coach also select this person. Other alternate members of the squad may be named by the advisor and coach in accordance with needs for additional members.

    6. One is not eligible for the Blue squad cheerleader tryouts after he/she has served on the squad as a Blue cheerleader for four years. A year on the White squad does not count as a year for Blue squad eligibility purposes. A year as an additionally selected member on the Blue squad does not count as a year for eligibility purposes. However, an additional member becoming a regular member of the squad may count as one of the four years of eligibility and will be determined by the advisor and coach in accordance with the length of time the additionally selected member served as a regular. One is not eligible for the Blue and White squads after he/she has served as a cheerleader on the squad at another college or university for four years. (Upon careful and thoughtful consideration, the coach and/or advisor may make an exception to this rule.)

    7. The UK Cheerleading program is a highly competitive and time-consuming activity. Persons who have other serious commitments (other than academics) of their time, such as a child, a spouse, a 20 hour or more work week, etc., are strongly encouraged to discuss their commitment with the cheerleading advisor and coach before trying out for the squad. Similarly, persons in academic programs, which have significant time-consuming demands, e.g., architecture, landscape architecture, physical therapy, etc., are encouraged to do the same.

    B. General

    1. Cheerleaders shall:
    a. maintain a 2.0 grade point average.
    b. be enrolled as a full-time student at UK on the Lexington campus

    2. For justifiable reason(s), the advisor may make an exception to rule B. 1. b. above.

    3. Cheerleaders and the mascot shall not consume alcoholic beverages while in uniform. (See Section IV. Alcoholic Beverages, this document.)

    4. Without special permission of the coach and/or advisor, cheerleaders and the mascot, while in uniform, shall not go into any place where alcoholic beverages are served. Exceptions would be events such as an official appearance at UK Athletics or UK Alumni Association events.

    5. If funds are available and the squad attends a collegiate cheerleading camp, every member of the squad shall attend.

    6. Each cheerleader shall have a complete physical by a physician prior to attending the college cheerleading camp at the end of the summer.

    7. Cheerleaders are expected to work as a team. Individual members of the squad may be close friends. Squad members' friendship or non-friendship shall not have a negative effect on the team.

    8. Each squad member is responsible for all of the clothing, uniforms, and equipment assigned to him/her. Care must be taken to insure such clothing, uniforms, and equipment is in a clean and presentable condition. Each squad member shall safeguard his/her clothing, uniforms, and equipment and shall be, therefore, personally liable for its replacement for loss or damage, excluding normal wear and tear.

    9. Other rules concerning cheerleaders may be promulgated verbally or in written form by the coach and/or advisor. Violation of these additional rules may result in disciplinary action.

    10. Violations of any cheerleading rules shall subject the squad member to discipline. The advisor with consultation and advice of the coach always levies final discipline. In most cases, captain(s) (if chosen that year) will be advised/consulted with in relation to a squad member's discipline.

    11. A serious violation of these rules or repeated violations shall result in one being suspended from the squad. Less serious violations shall result in one's loss of the opportunity to travel to away games, or to purchase football or basketball tickets to games. A squad member may be suspended from cheering one or more games due to violations of these rules.

    12. These rules and regulations are subject to addition and change when found necessary and beneficial. The advisor makes final acceptance of all rules.

    C. Practices

    1. Cheerleaders shall:
    a. attend all practices (Regular practices for the Blue Squad are scheduled on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays for the Blue squad; regular practice for the white squad are Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sundays evenings; special practices will be scheduled as needed.),
    b. not be tardy or absent from practice,
    c. notify advisor, coach, or captain(s) as soon as possible if he/she finds it impossible to attend practice or knows he/she is going to be tardy.
    d. never consume alcoholic beverages before a practice.

    D. Games

    1. Cheerleaders shall:
    a. attend all home football, basketball, and volleyball games, required scrimmages, and/or special scheduled games or activities,
    b. arrive at the game site ninety minutes prior to kick off or tip off, unless the advisor, coach, or captains designate an earlier or later time.
    c. never consume alcoholic beverages before a game.

    2. A captain or captains may be selected by a vote of the entire squad. In the case in which the mascot is elected captain, a game captain will also be elected.

    E. Travel (Also, see Section II. Travel Expectations, this document.)

    1. Travel to away games will be in accordance with budget restrictions and in accordance with the Southeastern Conference, the NCAA, and University rules and regulations.

    2. The squad, or a portion thereof, will travel with a chaperone as a group and return as a group. If a cheerleader chooses to go to or from a game by other transportation, he/she gives up his/her privilege to cheer at the game, except in special cases, which will be determined by the advisor.

    3. Final authority of all decisions made while traveling shall rest with the advisor and coach; decisions may be made with the advice and consent of the captains and majority.

    4. An itinerary will usually be prepared and given to each cheerleader traveling. The itinerary will include times of departure, arrival, etc., telephone number(s) of hotel(s), appropriate articles of clothing, etc. Squad members shall adhere to the itinerary.

    5. When only a specific number of cheerleaders are attending an away game, final authority on who goes rests with the coach and/or advisor. Consideration as to the selection shall be as follows: (1) determination of who wants to go; (2) fairly even distribution of trips for each squad member; (3) attendance records at practices, games, special events with due consideration to tardiness; (4) input from the squad (vote as to whom the squad thinks would be best to go). Other methods of selection, which could be used, are (1) drawing (2) seniority (3) class or (4) grade point average.


    Any illness or injury shall be reported to the squad trainer and the advisor or coach immediately.

    Any injury suffered during practices, games, or other official functions will be treated by the Athletics Association's trainer and/or doctor. Initial expenses for such treatment shall be paid by the squad member's personal insurance up to the amount of the applicable insurance policy.

    If an injury or illness incapacitates a squad member, he/she shall not be permitted to practice and cheer for a period of time as determined by the UKAA trainer or a doctor. Generally, another member shall replace an injured/ill member of the squad until he/she is fully recovered. Return to participation at games or practices may be determined by a UKAA trainer or a doctor.

    If a UKAA doctor recommends that a squad member no longer cheer, due to injury or a health problem, the squad member shall be removed from the squad. If chronic illness or injury causes a squad member to miss games or practices repeatedly, the squad member may be removed from the squad by the advisor.

    More complete information on injury/illness is available in the UKAA publication, “Student-Athlete Medical Policy & Procedure Handbook,” which is the official publication on injury and illness and which takes precedent over this policy.



    The UK cheerleading program is committed to promoting and fostering healthy lifestyles and eating habits for squad members. Conduct which opposes this philosophy and/or conduct which poses unacceptable risk and disregard for the health, safety and welfare of participants is violative of this policy and will result in appropriate counseling and/or disciplinary action up to and including termination form the squad.

    Cheerleaders at the University of Kentucky must be excellent athletes. Cheerleading involves some aspects of several athletic activities, e.g., rotation and tumbling of gymnastics, stamina of basketball, strength of body building or football, balance and movement of dance, etc. The UK cheer program is highly regarded and, by most standards, is one of the elite cheer programs in the nation. Therefore, the standards of the UK program are the standards of a top program, not the average cheer program.

    A primary activity of the UK cheerleaders is the partner stunt (double stunt). Pyramids are partner stunts combined vertically (in levels, not to exceed two-and-a-half human heights) and horizontally (side-by-side partner stunts). The nature of these activities demands certain general physical requirements of the UK cheerleader. The male squad member must have sufficient strength to base pyramids and to lift, hold, throw and catch females safely. Female squad members must be of appropriate size and weight such that they can be lifted, held, thrown and caught safely. For safety and performance reasons, females generally should be under a height of five foot five inches and under a weight of one hundred twenty pounds. Body composition varies from individual to individual, but these measurements are thought to be ideal in relation to safety. It is thought that the risk of injury rises substantially with the female who is over five foot five and/or over one hundred twenty pounds. In addition, persons of less than average size, particularly females, are more likely to demonstrate the flexibility (quick change of direction, flight in basket-tosses, etc.) which is necessary in the athletic aspects of cheerleading.


    Education is the key to promotion of healthy lifestyles and preventing eating disorders. UK cheerleading advisors, coaches, trainers, and squad members (to include mascots) will receive written materials and oral instruction on healthy eating.

    The educational unit of the UK Cheer Program on promoting healthy lifestyles and preventing eating disorders will annually include at least the following:

    1. Distribution for reading the materials contained in the document, “Nutrition for Cheerleaders,” by Kathy Engelhart-Fenton, Director of the University of Utah Nutrition Center;

    2. A lecture/meeting with a nutritionist, usually by a professor of nutrition, as arranged by the UKAA training staff;

    3. Teaching of advisors, coaches, and trainers to recognize eating disorders, to know what treatment options are available and to be familiar with UKAA policy and procedures for handling eating disorders;

    4. Annual observing of NCAA produced video, “Eating Disorders Project, Parts I and II”;

    5. Annual lecture for female members of the program by a physician who specializes in gynecology.

    Program Requirements

    All squad members shall be required to lift weights. A strength coach or an assistant strength coach in consultation with the Cheer Coach will design specific weight programs. A designated time period each day will be available for cheerleader's weight lifting at an appropriate UKAA Athletic Training Center(s).


    Squad members who acknowledge an eating disorder problem shall be suspended from performance (games and practices) and immediately referred to a member of the UKAA training staff who will follow UKAA training procedures for seeking medical (physical and psychological) services for the squad member. Upon the recommendation of a physician and with the concurrence of the advisor and coach, the squad member may be returned to performance. In accordance with the severity of the problem, the advisor/coach may seek the physician's continued approval for the squad member to perform (play and practice). A squad member whose eating disorder problem presents sufficient documented disruption to squad practice, travel, and performance may be suspended or terminated from the program.

    Having been educated as to the symptoms of eating disorders, it is the responsibility of squad members, coaches, trainers, choreographers, and advisors to attempt to recognize a problem with a squad member. If the advisor has sufficient documented evidence to reasonable believe that a squad member has an eating disorder problem, the advisor will confront that squad member. Admission of a problem will result in the previously detailed procedures. Without admission and after the advisor's presentation of the evidence, the squad member shall, depending on the weight of the evidence, be 1) encouraged to seek counseling or 2) required to go to the UKAA training staff for referral to an appropriate physician.

    Because of the nature of the cheerleading activity (partner stunts and pyramids), each squad member's health and fitness is significant. Unlike most sports, the collapse of a squad member, due to health or injury problems could potentially lead to the serious injury of other squad members, not just the one member who is sick (or injured). While the advisor(s) and coach(s) will demonstrate a compassionate understanding for sickness (and injury), the safety of all the squad is a more significant concern. Health (and injury) problems will be dealt with fairly, but firmly. When any possibility of danger to other squad members is reasonably foreseeable due to the health of another squad member, the unhealthy squad member shall be suspended or terminated from the program.

    Policy Conclusion

    The most important part of this policy is the goal of teaching squad members nutritious eating habits. Dieting as a method of weight loss is strongly discouraged. “Crash” diets will not be tolerated, and persons engaging in such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action. General nutritional counseling is an on-going part of this program. Every effort will be made to have nutritional foods available for the squad on away trips.

    Squad members must realize that they are what they eat and drink. Squad members will be informed on nutritional eating. The ultimate responsibility for weight maintenance rests with the squad member himself or herself.


    The increased athletic activity in cheerleading has resulted in an increased concern for safety. Cheerleading involves a variety of gymnastics, motions, partner stunts, rotations, pyramids, dance and heights; participation in cheerleading involves a certain amount of danger of personal injury. Cheerleaders are placed on notice that improper conduct of cheerleading activity may result in catastrophic injury, paralysis or even death. In becoming a participant in this program, a cheerleader voluntarily assumes the risk involved by participating in cheerleading practices, games, and other activities.

    The UK program has adopted the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors (AACCA). All squad members shall be thoroughly familiar with and shall carefully abide by the AACCA guidelines. Cheerleaders are aware the failure to abide by the AACCA guidelines may result in immediate and serious discipline to include possible dismissal from the squad.

    Copies of the AACCA guidelines are readily available. If a squad member does not have a copy, one should request a copy form the advisor. A copy of these safety recommendations and guidelines is attached to this Policy document as Attachment 1.

    The American Association for Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors (AACCA) publication, CHEERLEADING SAFETY MANUAL, is required reading for the cheerleading advisor(s), assistant advisor(s), coach(s), and squad captain(s). A copy of the MANUAL is available in the advisor's office; cheerleaders are encouraged to check it out read it carefully.