Thu Jun 25 04:59pm EDT
Florida International has endured many indignities in its brief stint in Division I-A. Since being called up in 2002, the Golden Panthers have nearly the worst record in the nation, including a 23-game losing streak from 2006-07; have faced multiple penalties for falling short of NCAA academic benchmarks and fielding ineligible players; and are best known, by far, for throwing down with Miami in the bench-clearing, helmet-swinging Orange Bowl brawl that resulted in a tidal wave of suspensions and the immortal heroism of A'mod Ned in 2006.
But every team, no matter what its record or conference affiliation, deserves this kind of indignity:
... when FIU's fledgling football team takes the field this fall, the pompoms and pyramids will be conspicuously absent.
In a year when public universities statewide are slashing academic programs and laying off employees, FIU's cheerleading team is the latest to get the ax.
The decision follows FIU's recent move to eliminate its marching band -- also a fixture at football games.
It's true that the university will save more than $100,000 by cutting the sideshow, and there won't be that many people around to notice the difference -- FIU was 118th out of 119 teams in attendance last fall with a little under 14,000 people (announced) per game. But that was up substantially from just under 8,000 per game in 2007, and the Panther cheerleading is program is actually far more competitive than any of the school's traditional sports -- the Miami Herald reports they were ranked fourth nationally when the ax fell.
But more than that, Panther fans are a proud people. If you prick them, do they not bleed navy and gold? If you play Gary Glitter, do they not shout, "Hey!"? If girls in skimpy outfits exhort them, do they not stand up and holler? They may not be champions, but wherever you come from, a team with a half-empty stadium and no manufactured pep is just sad.