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The Loneliness of a Citadel Cheerleader

My buddy Gooch (you may remember him from the Packer game last year) came up with a couple tickets for the Wisconsin/Citadel football game at Camp Randall this Saturday. Since he lives in South Carolina and has relatives that went to The Citadel, the tickets were in their section. In fact, they were front row - almost field level.

Sitting with the Citadel fans was actually fairly interesting. Seeing as how their school is a tiny, state-sponsored military school of 2,000 students, they were in awe of the spectacle of Camp Randall (and of the existence of cheese curds).

The most interesting aspect of the game, however, was the Citadel cheerleaders, who were about 15 feet in front of us.

You may recall the fact that The Citadel used to be for male cadets only, until that policy was challenged in 1994 by Shannon Faulkner. The federal government threatened to withhold funds from the school unless it complied with the order to go co-ed. In 1996, four more female cadets enrolled, with two eventually dropping out. The numbers have climbed slowly since then.

At the game, I asked some of The Citadel's fans when they went co-ed. "1996. Because of the f***ing federal government," one guy sneered. It became clear at that point that the new policy remains wildly unpopular, especially among alumni.

Before they went co-ed, I was told, The Citadel used to hire out cheerleaders from other local small colleges for their games. It was clear that now, their cheerleaders came from within the ranks of their cadets. These women were... and there's really no way to massage this... awfully plain-looking. Their cheerleading couldn't compel a dog to sniff itself.

Naturally, they were heckled by the crowd - only more so by the Citadel fans themselves, who resent their very presence at the college. After halftime, they took their sweat pants off - which compelled one fan behind me to start a "put them back on!" chant.

Things got even worse by comparison after the Badger cheerleaders put on a little show for our section. The Citadel fans were delighted with seeing "real" cheerleaders. But at that point, I put my foot down. I pointed out that the Wisconsin cheerleaders are bred genetically to be cheerleaders, while the Citadel cheerleaders are cadets - who at some point, will be fighting for our country. In a few years, the Badger cheerleaders will be pouring shots on the rocks in a bar, while the Citadel cheerleaders will be shooting at Iraquis in Anbar.

So sure, they may not be that great - but they're not supposed to be. They're supposed to be learning how to defend our country, not their football team's goal line. Asking those women to be cheerleaders would be like asking them to play offensive line - it just doesn't fit.

So here you have these poor young women who aren't welcome by their own fans, in a 90,000 seat stadium, where their team was undoubtedly a sacrificial lamb (they actually kept it uncomfortably close for most of the game). They deserve more praise than anyone out there on that field.

[...]

And on a related note, it really is hard to root against a military team. They obviously have no chance against teams like the Badgers, as they have strict height and weight requirements for service (somehow, The Air Force has been the exception). Those are the types of games you'd like to win by a point - running it up against a military academy seems to be a little unsettling. Even more so, you don't want to see a cadet get hurt badly, as it could affect his service.

At one point, a Badger landed a late hit on a Citadel Bulldog. I figured it was bad form to cheap shot the military - best to leave that up to Moveon.org.