At the end of August, the Seattle University Cheer program officially ended. The cut follows a several-month suspension of the team and the resignation of the head coach Travis Millspaugh.
“It honestly breaks my heart,” said Skyler Furr, former Seattle U cheerleader. Furr served as the team captain for three of his four years on the Seattle U cheer team. “It was incredible to grow that much and build a team. I was super excited that after I left, the team would continue to be better.”
Furr won’t get to see the team grow beyond where it was during his final term as captain.
Seattle U Cheer Team takes the floor during a men’s basketball game.
The cut followed the suspension of both the cheer and dance teams, which began in early springtime. Seattle U Athletics cited the suspension as a time to review the teams’ safety standards.
In July, a few months into the team’s suspension, Seattle U Head Cheer Coach of 12 years, Travis Millspaugh, resigned.
While the exact incident that prompted the suspension is unclear, it followed a series of injuries, including a stunting accident in which a Seattle U cheerleader was concussed while the team was in Las Vegas last march to support the Seattle U Men’s Basketball team.
“We had a few concussions here or there,” said senior Mario Sabatelli, regarding the team’s injuries during his three years as a Seattle U cheerleader.
During the suspension, the university hired Kenny Dow, Head Cheer Coach at the University of Washington, to conduct an external review of the team’s safety standards.
Dow interviewed many cheerleaders during his audit, including Seattle U cheerleader of two years
Herring said problems he identified to Dow included old mats and a lack of access to the weight training facilities. “It felt like there was a lot of change coming,” Herring said of the external review. “We felt that that would be enough to put the team on the right course.”
Which is why it came as a surprise to some of the cheerleaders when they learned that the team wouldn’t continue on.
While Seattle U Cheer has ended, the dance program will continue. Athletics attributes their decision to the increasing popularity of dance teams across the nation.
“In review of last year and review of the national trend in following along with that, that focusing on dance is the direction that we felt would be best for everybody,” said Sarah Finney, Athletics Communication Director. “The dance element was really the direction that we want to focus.”
Furr said that he doesn’t necessarily see a national trend toward dance.
“I would invite [Athletics] to look at teams like U of Kentucky, U of Alabama, all of the big schools, UW – UW’s not cutting their cheer team. [Athletics] can say whatever they want. Gonzaga, another Jesuit university within the state, they’re not cutting their cheer team. That’s not a trend.”
For Furr, the claim that cheer was cut because of the increased popularity of dance doesn’t match the information the team received. “We were told safety concerns. That was what they told the team,” Furr said.
As for what was concluded during the university’s review: “I never saw the report or heard anything about it other than that,” Furr said.
For Furr, the cheer team helped him find his place in university life.
“I’m a short guy and I don’t really play any sports all that well compared to college athletes. Cheer was kind of something I got into and was able to be good at something because you don’t have to be a big dude to be good at it,” Furr said.
While the former cheerleaders are confident in the dance team’s abilities, they say that the atmosphere won’t be the same without the other half of the spirit squad.
“Dance is great, but dance is a good compliment to cheer and cheer is a good compliment to dance. And that’s a lot less people in general, so I think the impact is going to be significantly less,” Herring said.
The cheer cut also means a decrease of the number of people chanting from the sidelines. Prior to the cut, there were over 20 cheerleaders and dancers combined. Now, after the cut, eight dancers remain on the dance team.
“It will be a noticeable difference without us 14 cheerleaders there,” Sabatelli said. “It’s going to be a lot quieter.”
The editor may be reached at