Shannon O'Toole dodged tortillas
thrown by spectators at her first home football game in 1995. Wade
Hampton ('62) received the wrath of Dean Imogene Bentley when
he hid a bottle of bourbon in his megaphone.
Paula Nichols Cogdell ('83) had her "all-time funniest and
embarrassing moment" during a nationally televised basketball
game in the Coliseum.
"We were all psyched up, and my partner, Steve Peterson,
decided we should do the famous helicopter stunt," she says.
Another female cheerleader sat on Peterson's shoulders, and
Cogdell grasped her extended legs while Peterson spun around, causing
Cogdell to become airborne and create the helicopter.
girl whose legs I held onto broke the cardinal rule — she
put lotion on prior to the game," she says.
Cogdell flew off during the spin, and Peterson and the other cheerleader
fell. Cogdell remembers looking up and seeing the cheerleader's
knees still locked around Peterson and her skirt over his head.
"I began laughing so hard! My partners were so mad at me. The next
morning in Kerr Hall, the basketball players gave me
a standing ovation. They had watched this episode forward and backward
during their film reviews!"
Cogdell says she wouldn't have traded her years on the squad
Neither would Kristen Rosen ('03), a three-year veteran — even
with up to 15 hours of practice a week.
"I loved being in front of the crowds at games, and as a cheerleader,
I was able to travel and go to bowl games," she says.
first started at North Texas in the 1920s. Until the 1980s, it
emphasized yelling and jumping rather than pyramids, partner
stunts and throws, and tumbling routines — the emphasis
of cheerleading today.
had zero gymnastic skills. If I was in college today and tried out,
there's no way I would be chosen," says Pat Noah Graham ('53).
"We didn't do anything harder than lift the girls onto our
shoulders," Hampton recalls.
Bruce Pfieffer ('75) remembers his squad yelling "Welcome to
the Pit!" with North Texas students at the beginning of basketball
games in the Men's Gym, nicknamed the Snake Pit.
"We would also start the crowd with stamping their feet by banging
our megaphones on the floor. It was almost deafening, since the
Men's Gym had lousy acoustics," he says. "It
would drive the other team crazy."
from the 1950s, '60s and '70s were limited to holding pep rallies
at home football and basketball
games. They traveled to away games only on special trips sponsored
by the North Texas student government association — or when
they could raise the money to go.
Stewart McNairy ('72) says his squad went to football games
in Cincinnati, San Diego and Memphis after receiving $8,000
in contributions from fraternity and sorority members and Denton
"The players couldn't believe it when we showed up," he
a committee selects North Texas cheerleaders today,
the student body elected the cheerleaders from the 1950s until
the early 1970s.
Students wanting to run for cheerleader appeared before
a faculty committee, which determined who would be on the
ballot, says LaGayle Henson Sosnowy ('66).
"Committee members looked for those who were somewhat coordinated
and full of school spirit," she says.
Students on the cheerleading ballot campaigned like politicians.
Robert Munday ('55, '57 M.Ed., '65 Ed.D.) resigned
from the Student Senate to run for cheerleader.
"I put up posters all over campus, and I had a banner that stretched
across a fence," he says.
Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity backed McNairy for cheerleader in the
spring of 1969.
"My fraternity brother Jim Hobdy ('69) was my campaign manager,"
he says. "I went to every dorm, lunch table and sorority, passing
out buttons. I figured the guys wouldn't vote, so I tried
to get the girls' vote."
cheerleader selections by the student body were
discontinued after a controversial election, Pfieffer says.
"The Vietnam War had divided many students, so one of the eight
guy finalists ran as an 'end-the-war' candidate. Three
of his friends were write-in 'end-the-war' candidates," he
recalls. "I also remember some candidates performing on a
trampoline in front of the Union. It was a three-ring circus."
left the cheerleading squad in 1973 to be on the Student Senate.
As a member of the Rules and Elections Committee, he successfully
lobbied to have a selection committee choose the cheerleaders.
Recognition for athletics
college cheerleading nationwide became more athletic in the 1980s,
squads started competing for stunt awards at National Cheerleading
Association summer camps.
North Texas students trying out for cheerleader were required to
have skills in gymnastics and tumbling.
had to do a back handspring to make the squad," says Sharon
She remembers practicing for hours at cheerleading camp.
"Our captain, Kenny Goss ('83), was a drill sergeant and perfectionist.
He would make us do 10 back handsprings in a row at practice.
During camp, we would practice outside at night until 2 a.m.,"
says. "We won the highest award there."
won its first NCA National Collegiate Championship in 1995, a few
years after the annual championship began. Two more championships
followed in 2000 and 2002.
benefits of cheerleading
alumni from the 1980s and '90s made cheerleading a career
after leaving North Texas.
Cogdell gave private lessons for eight years.
"Cheerleading has taken a lot of hits with the idea that cheerleaders
are airheads," she says. "But we do as much training
as any other athletic program."
who cheered at UNT from 1995
to 1997 and placed third in the NCA championships partner stunt
competition in 1995, is now on the NCA instructional staff.
"Cheerleading was an after-school activity for me at first. I
never thought it would open so many doors," she says. "I've
traveled around the world with the NCA, and cheerleading definitely
gave me confidence in public speaking."
who didn't make cheerleading a career say their years in front
of crowds also
socialization skills from cheerleading are fantastic. You learn to
be your best self because you're representing
and that's something you use your whole life," Munday
Hampton calls cheerleading "the ultimate act of demonstration"
that prepared him for his sales career.
"I had an incredible time, and I cherish my memories of cheerleading,"
Some alumni are sharing those memories with younger generations.
Graham says she showed her yearbook cheerleading photos to
her young grandsons.
"The response was, 'Grandmother! Did you really jump in the
air like that?'" she says. "Cheerleading was
a fun, happy time for me."