cheerleader

Despite performing at many school-sponsored events, Penn cheerleading receives all of its funding from donations and is not given any additional money from Penn Athletics.

Credit: Zach Sheldon

On Nov. 10, Penn men’s basketball junior forward AJ Brodeur posted a tweet sharing his frustration about alleged “budget cuts” for the Penn band and cheerleading programs. He stated that the two groups have not been able to stay in hotels during road trips, and he ended the tweet by asking, “Where is the money going?”

The answer to that question, according to Penn band director R. Greer Cheeseman, is that the money is not being allocated any differently than it typically has been. In an email, Cheeseman indicated that there have been no cutbacks in the team’s funding and that the band receives funding from Penn Athletics and donations.

The cheerleading team, on the other hand, is funded entirely by donations. Penn cheerleading coach Jessica Stilwell said in an email that the program does not receive money from Penn Athletics for coaches’ salaries or the team’s budget.

The Penn Champions Club (PCC) is integral in organizing the donations to band and cheerleading, as well as other sports teams on campus. The PCC is the development and alumni relations branch of Penn Athletics, and the organization’s website states that its main goal is to “provide student-athletes the resources they need to be champions in the classroom, in the community and in competition, while providing donors unparalleled experiences.”

The website also indicates that financial support of Penn band goes to the costs of equipment, travel, and team meals. For cheerleading, alumni support covers the costs of uniforms, equipment, player development, team travel, team meals, camps, and youth clinics. 

With funding for these two teams coming from donations, Penn Athletics does not have much involvement in the decision-making of each team, but the department communicates with the teams’ non-student leadership, which includes Cheeseman and Stilwell.

“We as students don’t hear a lot about [the funding specifics],” said sophomore Melannie Jay, the band travel manager. “But what we hear is that Athletics asks for everything and gives us nothing. So Athletics wants us to travel, and they tend to overload us on activities and not really give us what we need to succeed on that front.”

In years past, both band and cheerleading have been able to travel to the Ivy League road games for both football and basketball. That has remained the case for the band in 2018, as they attended all but two road football games this season. The two that the group missed were the games at Sacred Heart University and at Cornell University — scheduled over fall break and on a Friday, respectively, and therefore difficult to attend.

Cheeseman said via email that the band plans on playing at as many Ivy League away games as possible moving forward. He also mentioned that the Ivy League bands have an agreement in place, dating back a few years, in which the traveling group stays with the hosts during trips as a way for the road band to save money.

While the band has maintained a consistent travel schedule into the basketball season, the cheerleading team has not been able to accompany them as often. In fact, this past football season, the group’s only road trip was to Princeton for the last game of the season. In an email, Stilwell said that the team has not made a final decision regarding its travel schedule for the spring season and is looking through the numbers to determine if it is feasible to travel with the basketball teams and the band.

“The hardest thing that I’ve noticed this semester has been [that] cheer has not gone on a single road trip with us in the basketball season,” Jay said. “It used to be that the football or basketball team would take one bus, band and cheer would be together on the other. And we consider ourselves to have a very close relationship with cheer because of that, and their absence has definitely been felt this semester.”

Whether or not cheerleading will join the band and basketball teams this spring remains up in the air, and there is currently no timetable for when the decision will come.

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