Cheerleaders blindsided by PSU putting cheer program on ‘pause’

Published: Jun. 6, 2023 at 9:37 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Portland State University says it’s “pausing” its cheer program. Current members of the team say they feel disrespected by this decision and say their requests to discuss the matter have been ignored.

Portland State University’s cheer team not only competes, they win.

“In February, we competed at the USA Spirit Nationals,” Ryley Stewart, a PSU cheerleader, said.

“In the band chant division, we took first, in situational we took second, and in show cheer, we took third, and that’s just this year,” Sydney Little, a PSU cheerleader, said.

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For athletes on the team, they say the Viking cheer program is a big reason why they chose to attend PSU and say it’s a big part of campus culture.

“We go to football games, basketball games, boys’ and girls’ basketball games, volleyball, and we went to a couple of soccer games as well,” Little said.

But just a few days ago, the university informed these athletes, it will be “pausing” the cheer program for the upcoming 2023 to 2024 season.

In the letter to the Spirit Squad members, Portland State Athletics says the decision, “was based on a variety of factors, including budget constraints.”

Cheerleaders tell FOX 12 they were blindsided.

“During COVID, the athletics department told us that we were not going to be cut because our budget was so minuscule,” Little said.

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Unfortunately, the cheer team says this lack of support for their program has also led to coaches stepping down recently. And with just a week left of the school year, they’re hoping to change the minds of the decision-makers.

“There isn’t anyone in the BIG SKY without a cheerleading team, so for PSU to not have a cheer team that would look really weird on their end,” Stewart said.

FOX 12 has reached out to PSU asking if there’s any possibility for this decision to be reconsidered. The university sent the following statement:

“A decision was made to pause the program for the 2023-24 academic year. The Cheer program is an affiliate of the Athletics Department to support our game day environment. It is not a competitive cheer program. We will continue to operate our other affiliate support program, the Dance team.

The department is doing this to evaluate and develop the program to support the goals of the athletics program and university. This will allow us to review alternative program models and alternative funding opportunities to make the program stronger and more sustainable. We hope to determine a long term sustainable program model that is supported appropriately to provide a positive experience for PSU students. We are currently having conversations with leadership within the cheer community in Oregon and peer institutions regarding building a model for cheer that best fits PSU.”

The members of the cheer team tell FOX 12 they’re remaining hopeful. They plan to post fliers around campus and have started a petition online. Learn more about it here.