Cheerleading Squad, 1946

The cheerleading squad has not always been open to women. Following World War II, NYU’s football and men’s basketball teams seemed to be in a slump. To many students the problem lay not with coaching, lack of talent, or inadequate facilities, but a lack of school spirit. To improve spectator turnout, school spirit, and, ultimately, help spur the Violets back to success, students rallied behind the perfect solution—“coed belles.” But in 1946, when the call was first made for female cheerleaders, the Board of Control for Women’s Athletics answered with a resounding “no.” Dorothy McSparran Arnold, Dean of Women, felt it unsuitable for girls to cheer, particularly in front of the large, non-NYU crowds the Violets often played to in Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. The students, however, continued to push for coed cheerleaders, pointing out that most of NYU’s opponents not only had female cheerleaders but winning records as well. In 1952, Dean Arnold and the Board finally relented. The first NYU female cheerleaders were allowed to join their male counterparts, but only at home games. It was a victory nonetheless. On their October 3 debut that year, the female cheerleaders, in long violet skirts, white sweaters, and white gloves, gave NYU hope that with yelling belles, success would be right around the corner.

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