EDITORIAL: Playing fair: Spirit teams deserve scholarships

Herald staff

The issue: WKU cheerleaders, Topperettes and Big Red Marching Band members do not receive significant, all-inclusive scholarships that other athletic teams do.

Our stance: Since the teams put in as much effort as the athletic teams, they should receive more scholarship assistance.

As athletic seasons begin and end every year, coverage and spectator attention is usually focused only on the teams on the field or on the court. Through fluctuating attendance numbers, shaky seasons and other sports drama, the ones who remain supportive are the cheerleading and dance teams and the marching band.

But the university does not return the favor.

Members of the coed and all-female cheerleading teams, the Topperettes dance team and the marching bands – classified as “Traditions” or “Spirit Teams” on the WKU athletics website – are bound to many of the same rules as other sports teams. They have travel requirements in their policies, meaning they often miss classes. And they have demanding morning and late practices, meaning they have to sacrifice just as much and still find time for studying and assignments.

Also, since the Spirit Teams perform routines that display their stamina, agility and athleticism, they exert energy and specialized skill like other athletic teams do. They are also at risk for serious injury.

With all of those factors considered, it seems unfair that Spirit Teams do not receive scholarships for their work. Some would argue, then, that every hard-working student should receive a scholarship. But since the Spirit Teams provide a service to WKU by acting as public relations promoters, representing WKU well in national competitions and supporting the teams, win or lose, it is not unreasonable to expect WKU to provide enough to at least cover their tuition.

According to their policies, the programs might offer minimal, partial scholarships or stipends if funds are available, but these scholarships do not cover meals, books or other fees.

Surrounding schools, including the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville, offer tuition scholarships to members of equivalent teams through their teams’ programs, endowed memorial scholarships or private donors. WKU has measured itself against other state schools before on issues from the smoking ban to stricter admission requirements. This issue should be no exception.

Ideally, the first step would be to recognize the Spirit Teams as athletic teams, not simply traditions. Perhaps then, a guaranteed scholarship would be more welcomed.

If the spirit makes the master, WKU first must energize the “spirit.” Since the teams work all season to keep fan and team spirit high, no matter the score, they should be rewarded.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member editorial board.