2008-09 college football bowl spirit rankings
The convoluted, oft-controversial, BCS-wrangled college football bowl season is about to begin. A solution to the BCS ranking and selection process may not come in the immediate future, but we can take solace in that every bowl game gives us ample opportunity to peruse the finest in collegiate spirit squads.
Rather than rank each bowl game based on the caliber of play from each football team, we provide a ranking of each game but with a twist, of course...as we are apt to do. First, the rules. And don't worry. This won't be a complex process to understand.
For each bowl game, we render a high-level opinion of each team's expected spirit squad presence, which could be one cheer and one dance squad, or some combo thereof. We attempt to identify two factors—the quality of skills for each squad and naturally, the popular babe factor of the female athletes.
Realize, of course, these are strictly the opinions of our staff. We base each opinion on first-hand observations of each squad on the sidelines at football games, volleyball games, or other appearances. The ranking considers the squads from both schools in each bowl game, not just from one school. In other words, let's say School A has Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader-type quality but School B had to bring their JV squad (for whatever reason). That game will not garner a high ranking compared to others where both school brought their "A" squads.
One more note to observe. We do not have intimate knowledge of every single spirit program in the country. Not yet, anyway. Of the 34 bowl games, we are giving you a Top 20. That means we didn't have enough spirit program knowledge of some schools for the other 14 games. Regardless of our ranking, our hope is that you come away with an understanding about a few insights known as collegiate spirit programs.
1. Chick-fil-A (Dec 31) - Georgia Tech v LSU: Interesting contrast here. Georgia Tech is an NCA/NDA program while LSU goes the UCA/UDA route. The tv camera guys will have plenty to view as both are very high on looks, led by the LSU Golden Girls, one of the best looking squads from top to bottom in all of college sports. Equally as talented, though, are the Tech Gold Rush dancers. On the cheer side, LSU is a perennial Top Ten competition squad, but Tech is just as strong. Couldn't ask for a better pairing.
2. Holiday (Dec 30) - Oklahoma State v Oregon: Ducks cheerleaders...what more can you say. They are always the top rung on the collegiate cheer ladder. But don't sell yourself short with the cheer and dance girls from OSU. They, too, have top notch looks. Do yourself a favor for those sitting near the end zones. With the enormous amount of touchdowns expected from both football teams, well...expect to see lots of tumbling passes or other stunts from the cheerleaders. Keep those cameras rolling.
3. Las Vegas (Dec 20) - BYU v Arizona: One of the better pairings. By reputation alone, both schools deliver great looking females and this year is no exception. Argue if you want that Arizona has better looking girls than BYU, but there is no way that UA can hold a candle to the dance skills of the BYU Cougarettes. In fact, no one can. The Cougarettes are exceptional dancers from top to bottom and the best I've seen this year. They will contend for a national title this year wherever they decide to go (UDA, NDA, or USA). BYU cheer is always strong (10th place at Daytona last year) and this year's squad is just as strong. The BYU cheer girls are great looking as well. Meanwhile, Arizona's Pom Line are no slouches. Lots of beauty and dance talent for this marching band auxiliary and they will compete at USA nationals in Las Vegas (Feb 2009). Arizona cheer is a non-competition squad but they have competition skills. Yep, their girls are nice looking too. This bowl is an absolute winner.
4. Liberty (Jan 2) - Kentucky v East Carolina: While I may gush about the LSU Golden Girls or the Oregon cheerleaders, this year's Kentucky varsity dance team is AAA. These girls have incredible beauty. And it's too bad we may not see UK's JV dance team because they are just as outstanding. Oh yeah...they can dance too. Naturally, you don't have to say much about UK cheer. Stated clearly and precisely, UK's blue squad is the best competition cheerleading team on the planet, let alone in college cheerleading. As coach Jomo Thompson told me when asked about this year's squad, "we don't rebuild, we just reload", referring to his 16-time UCA national champs. ECU has great looking female cheerleaders and dancers. Too bad they may be covered up in winter gear for this one.
5. BCS (Jan 8) - Oklahoma v Florida: Equal to the quality of football anticipated for the title game are the spirit squads from both schools. From the institution that gave us sideline sports maven Erin Andrews of ESPN, Florida's coed cheer squad and Dazzlers dance team are stockpiled with wonderful Florida girls. On the other side, Oklahoma may not match the beauty of Florida girl for girl, but OU is a perennial top ten competition cheer squad and they also have plenty of lookers. All of us should hope that none of these fine spirit athletes get lost in the glitz and hollywoodesque presentation that are part of the national title game.
6. St. Petersburg (Dec 20) - USF v Memphis: Whenever you talk about cheerleaders or dancers enrolled in a school somewhere in the state of Florida, it's like sipping (or gulping) your favorite mixed drink. Put talent and beauty together and that's what you get from U of South Florida. The Sun Dolls dance team is A+ this year, as they are almost every year. USF Gold and Green cheer squads are strong with above average skills. Both compete at Disney World in January and usually you see them on the final day. However, on the other side of the field are squads with even stronger credentials. Memphis is defending all-girls national champs in UCA while the pom squad is two-time defending national hip-hop champs in UDA. Lots of beauty and southern charm as well. A win-win in St. Petersburg.
7. Fiesta (Jan 5) - Texas v Ohio State: Deep in the Heart of Texas is where your heart will be after seeing the UT spirit program. They are a very energetic bunch with some very non-traditional uniforms that will certainly be a distraction for you. Ohio State will counter with one of the most traditional spirit teams you’ll ever see. VERY crowd oriented and very well coached. You won’t be able to help yourself from joining in the cheers.
8. Sugar (Jan 2) - Utah v Alabama: The Crimson Tide is your typical SEC school—girls with southern charm, high on looks, and a few of them are 5-foot, 100-pound flyers who annoy nearby aircraft attempting to land because guys can toss them so easily and with plenty of altitude. Back on earth, the Crimson Cabaret dancers are also tops. Alabama is usually near the top of the UCA and UDA charts. Watch out when you speak about Utah’s dance team in this game. They are called the Crimson Line, not to be confused with the other side of the field. This squad is large, 25 of them, and part of the marching band. Grade A on looks, grade A on skills. The Utes cheer team benefits from that mountain air…lots of great looking females. On the football side, this game could be scary in Alabama’s favor, but let’s hope the tv cameras do not neglect Utah’s dance or cheer team.
9. Meineke (Dec 27) - North Carolina v West Virginia: The Tar Heels are a top notch team in both dance and cheer who, under the guidance of their long time coaches, are a great addition to any Carolina football game. “Carolina’s Finest” has been used to describe the teams over the years! West Virginia is a rugged team who tries to stunt the other team out of the stadium. Look for a lot of big time baskets out of them. A+ from both schools.
10. Champs Sports (Dec 27) - Wisconsin v Florida State: The Badgers are a product of outstanding coaching from Jo Scheer and her assistants. UW cheer is competitively strong and very active on the sidelines. UW dance could be mistaken for Minnesota II as 10 of the 15 dancers are from the Twin Cities area, a mecca for producing top shelf dancers. These dancers are fun to watch, lots of high energy on the sidelines. FSU is more than just the Cowgirls. The Golden Girls dance team is outstanding on looks and dance skills. As a top UDA competitor, you expect high impact, lots of hip hop and quick jazz routines and these girls deliver. Noles cheerleading is never short on looks and always high on polished stunting and sideline cheer.
11. Gator (Jan 1) - Clemson v Nebraska: Clemson spirit is some of the best. The Rally Cats Dance Team has great motions and great lines. They look phenomenal too making it tough to watch the game. The cheerleaders do not disappoint either as they get into your face and make you cheer. Nebraska is making a comeback and their cheer and dance teams have a great Middle America look and fun personalities.
12. Capital One (Jan 1) - Michigan State v Georgia: While the football pundits are exacting a huge Bulldogs win on the field, on the sidelines, most might say the same about the spirit squad comparisons, and you might be correct. Georgia will bring only 16 cheerleaders, which is too bad but you will still get a strong flavor of the beauty behind Georgia girls. Part two is the Georgia marching band, known as the Redcoat Band. Be prepared for an onslaught of beauties from the Georgettes, Majorettes, and Flagline. Michigan State is a UCA/UDA follower. The cheerleaders are strong on sideline stunts and getting fans involved with the game. MSU’s dance team is surprisingly strong in dance and looks. With several good games on January 1, Georgia makes this one a can’t miss.
13. Insight (Dec 31) - Kansas v Minnesota: KU cheer is in rebuild mode this year on the competition side as they graduated a strong male core last year. Still, they are well coached and always have great looking females. The same can be said of the KU Rock Chalk dancers, who are once again strong on looks and dance skills. The Gophers coed squad is strong in all areas, from stunting to looks. Their dance squad is always a national power when it comes to competition and this year is no exception. This is a high energy squad and they constantly move on the sidelines. KU cheer has become one of my favorite spirit programs over the past two years.
14. Rose (Jan 1) - USC v Penn State: The Song Girls…a tradition for over 40 years. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing the tradition change. Can one ever get tired of such an American icon? (Raises hand). I understand the pageantry, but I guess I’d rather sit in the Penn State section. Speaking of PSU, be ready for a stunt fest as this cold weather school will definitely take full advantage of the So-Cal destination and the warm weather. Watch out and listen for the “We Are…” cheer.
15. GMAC (Jan 6) - Tulsa v Ball State: BSU probably has the largest spirit program in the MAC, with over 60 athletes total, but they have quality too where it matters most—skills and looks. BSU competes with the big guys in UCA Division 1A and they can hold their own. The Cardinals Code Red dance team has a great crop of freshmen hotties as does the coed cheer squad. Tulsa comes at you with lots of energy on the sidelines from the cheer and dance squads. A few of them can melt the camera too. It has already snowed on the Gulf states. Let’s hope the weather allows us to see both of these squads sans winter garb.
16. Outback (Jan 1) - South Carolina v Iowa: On paper, this could be a mismatch. South Carolina, an SEC school with a colorful team name, benefits from that southern belle mystique and they are certainly loaded with several belles. Iowa cheer is always well coached and always exudes high levels of school spirit on the sidelines. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes dance team is a strong UDA competitor, replete with high impact, multiple move eight-count jazz routines.
17. Independence (Dec 28) - Northern Illinois v Louisiana Tech: It's hard to be cheery about this one. The game is uninspiring at best, the cheer squads from both schools are middle of the road, but thank goodness La. Tech is bringing the Regal Blues. This dance team is top ten material in class, style, skill, and looks. There's something about certain parts of the country where pretty girls grow on trees, or in this case, in the marshes and swamps of Louisiana. Not that you'll find gators in Ruston, but you will find a dance team that elicits top notch routines and a great group of girls who don't get enough attention. Single-handedly, the Regal Blues save this game from obscurity. I wish I could rank it higher, but the formula forbids me.
18. Alamo (Dec 29) - Northwestern v Missouri: This is very one-sided. Northwestern is about academics. Their cheerleading squad is simply not good at all. However, the NU Ladycats compete well at UDA nationals but for a Big Ten school, they are small, only 12 members. Mizzou offers the best of both worlds. The cheer squad is active on the sidelines, a consistent top NCA program and above average looks, but when you talk about Mizzou spirit, everything always points to the marching band dance line Golden Girls. They could easily be mistaken for an NFL squad as they have 30 dancers. They are prim, proper, extremely disciplined, graceful, and have tons of beauty. They are also underrated and deserve more recognition. One of my favorite dance teams in the country.
19. Motor City (Dec 26) - FAU v Central Michigan: Central Michigan is a middle of the road MAC team for both cheer and dance squads. You won't see exceptional skills from the cheer squad, but they try. The CMU dance team usually has a few nice looking girls to behold. Tip your caps to the Big Ten this year. Without enough bowl-eligible teams to fill the spot in Detroit, the Motor City committee folks went out and grabbed FAU, and what a great substitute. The FAU Owls have an exceptional dance team filled with typical great looking Florida girls. Oh yeah, they can dance too (how many times have we said that?). Even if they don't perform at halftime or change outfits at least once, you can muster several outstanding shots of this high-impact team with great skills. The Owls cheer squad is an unknown but could be a surprise.
20. Texas (Dec 30) - Rice v Western Michigan: The WMU dance team is tops, winning an NDA national title two years ago and finishing 8th last year. They are equally tops in looks. The Cheer team has a lot of interesting pyramids and formations they use to get the crowd’s attention during the game. As for Rice, the saying, “our cheerleaders are smarter than your cheerleaders" comes to mind as Rice is a very intellectual school. Watch out for some crazy antics by their spirit squads to keep the crowd motivated.
I had a hard time ranking Mizzou, Ball State, Louisiana Tech and FAU so low, given that I have fair knowledge about these programs, but I had to stick to the quasi rules.
For those unfamiliar with the codes in the legend, you'll have to research collegiate national competitions for answers, but here is the down-and-dirty. College cheerleaders and dancers have their day in the spotlight when they compete at either Disney World in Orlando (UCA, UDA), the bandshell at Daytona Beach (NCA, NDA), or in Las Vegas (USA). These events are their Super Bowl, World Series, or Daytona 500. Schools attend just one of them, not multiple competitions.
LSU Golden Girls
Memphis Pom Squad
FAU Dance Team
Louisiana Tech Regal Blues Dance Team
Missouri Golden Girls Dance Line
Ball State Code Red Dance Team