Q&A: Cheerleaders speak out about confusion, lack of communication amid tumultuous Big Ten restart

The+Spirit+Squad+in+2019.+The+Big+Ten+has+barred+cheerleaders+from+football+games+for+the+2020+season.

Courtesy of Joshua Hoffman

The Spirit Squad in 2019. The Big Ten has barred cheerleaders from football games for the 2020 season.

Gabriela Carroll, Social Media Editor

The Big Ten worked tirelessly to find a way to safely bring back football, but Northwestern cheerleaders say they’ve been left behind in the school’s plans. Cheerleaders will not be allowed at Ryan Field for games this fall per a Big Ten mandate. Men’s and women’s basketball, the only other sports for which cheerleaders cheer, are scheduled to begin in late November.

The Daily spoke with senior Hayden Richardson and sophomore Catherine Zdunek about their plans and involvement in the 2020 football season and 2020-21 basketball season.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

The Daily: What was your initial reaction to learning the Big Ten canceled its fall sports season?

Zdunek: At first I was really shocked. I definitely understood why, but they really did not make it seem like they were going to cancel it. Especially for cheer, with everything going on, we didn’t get a lot of communication with the Athletics department, just because they were really focused on football.

The Daily: Were your underclassmen allowed to return to campus this fall?

Richardson: Since we’re not NCAA-sanctioned or technically a sport at Northwestern, we are not eligible for exemption, so the first- and second-years are off campus right now.

The Daily: Have you been practicing this fall?

Zdunek: We’re trying to social distance, so we haven’t had any practice or anything like that. I think if we would be cheering for basketball season, that’s when they would start practice again. I think for now, they just don’t want to have more people being in contact with each other.

The Daily: Has Northwestern communicated with you on whether you will be a part of basketball season?

Richardson: (Vice President for Athletics and Recreation) Jim Phillips said that we wouldn’t be having a season for football because our first- and second-years weren’t on campus. And then he included at the end that we would be ready for basketball season in November, which didn’t make a ton of sense, because my first- and second-years still won’t be in Evanston.

The Daily: Does participating in an indoor basketball season scare you at all?

Zdunek: I think personally that maybe it would be better to wait until things are really good. It’s October now, so I don’t know if things would drastically be able to change in a month, but I think maybe for cheer they could at least wait for halfway through the season, if anything. It’s just bringing more people in and then more people are coming in contact with each other.

The Daily: Do you think the volatility of this year’s football season is responsible for the lack of communication you’ve had with the Athletics department?

Richardson: Most definitely. If we’re making a comparison, football has administrators and things that are full-time. They work for football, so they were able to make preparations. Since cheerleading doesn’t have that, and right now our current coach is furloughed, we don’t have anyone advocating for us.

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Twitter: @gablcarroll

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