In April 1979, it was time for tryouts. Of course, I called on my two usual judges, Darlene Silvestri and Cathy Crum. With seven other judges, they selected the 1979-80 squad.
The females were Barbara Betts, Somerset, KY; Sandra Burton, Frankfort, KY; Cathy Caudill, Louisville, KY; Dana Emberton, Edmonton, KY; Jennifer Parks, Harrodsburg, KY; Paula Sumner, Louisville, KY; and Shawn Tackett, Walton, KY. The males selected were Lee Ackiss, Lexington, KY; Pat Bowles, Louisville, KY; Jeff “Sonny” Collins, Lexington, KY; Jeff Fossett, Frankfort, KY; Tim Hudson, Henderson, KY; Greg Medley, Louisville, KY; Jimmy Mortimer, Glasgow, KY; and Richard Polk, Louisville, KY. Terry Barney, Louisville, KY, remained the Wildcat Mascot.
During the second week in August, the squad and I travel to Johnson City, TN for our second squad experience at attending college camp. After I managed to gather T-shirts from Joe Kennedy at Kennedy?s Book Store and the Chevy Shop, we were off to ETSU again. On the way to camp, the squad members in the second van, lead primarily by Terry Barney, decided that the UK squad needed its own song. We had heard squads line the University of South Carolina perform on stage at camp. By the time we arrived at ETSU, they had created our ?Wildcats for Sale or Rent.? On the second night, the squad won a spirit stick. We were all so excited that I took them to the Pizza Hut to celebrate. We stayed out a little late, returned to campus in one full van, parked next to the dorm, had the music turned up loud, and were a little noisy. Jeff Webb sent a staffer to tell us to cut the music and go to bed. Needless to say, there were no more spirit sticks for UK during that camp experience.
Football & Basketball
During football, we took vans and drove to Bloomington for the UK- IU game. On the second away trip, we ventured to Morgantown, West Virginia for the UK-WVU game. It was my first rainy away game. I did not particularly enjoy sitting in the rain, but I recall that some of the females were even less excited about the ?wet-head? look.
On the third away football trip at the UK-LSU game in Baton Rouge, Ralph McCracken asked me if all of the cheerleaders would join him and Mary Ann for Sunday brunch. We were staying at the Baton Rouge Sheraton, and knowing the Sunday brunch at the Sheraton was not inexpensive, I suggested that he and I (really Athletics) split the cost. I was so concerned about the cost that I checked with Vice President for University Relations, Ray Hornbeck, to make sure that I was not imposing too much on Ralph. Since the McCracken family were significant donors to the University (to the Music Department in the College of Fine Arts), Ray knew Ralph and Mary Ann well, and he insisted that I accept Ralph?s offer. After a rare UK victory over LSU in Baton Rouge, on Sunday morning, the squad and I met Ralph and Mary Ann in the dining room and enjoyed the first of MANY, MANY Sunday brunches. For many seasons to come, it was understood that if Ralph and Mary Ann were on a trip, we would meet them for brunch on Sunday morning. Reality is that often Ralph, who is an earlier riser, would go to the dining room, eat, remain there to drink coffee and read the newspaper, and wait till the cheerleaders and I, who had been out late the night before, finally got up and made it to the dining room.
On November 17, the football team played the University of Florida in Gainesville at 1:00 p.m., and the basketball team played Duke University in the Tip-Off Classic game in Springfield, MA. Joe Burch took three couples from the cheer squad and went to the game in Gainesville. I took three couples and went the game in Springfield. Unfortunately, both the football and basketball teams lost. Even more unfortunately, the basketball team began its season with a loss to Duke and ended its season with a loss to Duke in the NCAA Tournament.
The Florida trip was Joe?s first away trip with the cheerleaders. While Jennifer Parks charmed Joe (and became his life-long friend), Sonny Collins was convincing him that ?T. Lynn always let us have a ?few beers? around the pool after the game.? To this day, T. Lynn gives Joe Burch a hard time about being so easily convinced that having a few beers at the pool is an OK thing for cheerleaders to do. Perhaps the most significant aspect of that trip was a 31 to 3 UK victory over Florida, a rarity indeed! The basketball trip was on a charter with the basketball team and a Commonwealth Travel group. I recall touring the Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum.
SEC Basketball Tournament
The second renewal of the SEC Men?s Basketball Tourney was in Birmingham again. We left Lexington via two UKAA vans after classes on Thursday. After a late evening stop at a service station, where cheerleaders jumped in and out of vans, where males put females over their shoulders and spun them around and around, and where craziness existed, we got gas and headed back down the Interstate. After we started down the road, an Alabama state trooper pulled us over. The people at the station reported that two drunk guys (Mark Wingate who had never in his life drunk alcohol and I) were driving a bunch of drunk cheerleaders on I-65. After a brief conversation with Mark and me, the trooper was well aware that he did not have two drunk drivers (but only a crazy bunch of college cheerleaders); he left and we were on our way again.
Since it was next door to the arena, the Hyatt was once again the most popular place to stay. We arrived near midnight on Thursday evening and found that there were no rooms for us. After an hour, Larry Ivy convinced management to do something with us. Since other hotels were also filled with SEC Tourney crowds, the Hyatt?s accommodation for us was placing the females in two rooms and all of the males in a dining/conference room on the top floor of the hotel. The hotel staff brought in seven beds and the six male cheerleaders and the mascot all slept in the same room. They used the public restroom next to the top floor restaurant, and when showers were needed, they went to my room and the rooms of basketball student managers and trainers. We socialized at night. At one club, we cleared everyone off of the dance floor so that the females could perform their dance routine from the national competition. Of course, that was a HIT with the crowd there. A memorable experience at a game was Sonny?s ?failure? to execute a toe-pitch with Paula who wound up with a bloody face that needed to recover before our trip to California for the National Championship.
Having gotten the taste of cheerleading competition during the 1978-79 season, when we received the information on the Brad Marks Production for CBS, there was no doubt that we would enter the competition. Our friend, Kris Shepherd from UCA, flew in from Memphis and assisted us in filming for the College Cheerleading National Championship that would be held in Los Angeles. We spent three nights filming; first in the Seaton, then in the Student Center Ballroom and then again in Seaton. Kris was invaluable with cheorgraphing the film and assisted us in everything. We did creative filming with stunts and pyramids that seemed to never hit. At one point, I am sure that everyone in the frustrated group thought that Jennifer and T. Lynn were going to kill each other.
We submitted a film, were selected as a finalist, and flew to LA for the competition. Sandy Rice assisted with the choreography of our routine and flew to LA with us. Several parents and friends went with us as well. Among those were Mary Ann McCracken, Sandy Burch, Barbara Betts? mother, Sandra Burton?s mother, and Jennifer Parks? mother. One of the valuable future travel/competition lessons learned was to always keep your uniforms with you, never pack uniforms with your luggage. After five days there and on the day before the competition, Dana Emberton?s luggage finally arrived from the airport with her uniform in it.
The day before the competition, we were practicing in a parking lot. (Obviously, there were no safety guidelines then.) Greg Medley did a back flip off a pyramid and broke his kneecap. The day of the competition, I took him to a doctor?s office where they removed all of the accumulated fluid and gave him some pain medicine. Just before the competition, we filled him with pain medicine and told him to forget about his injury. He performed like a champion?And became everyone?s hero.
Our friend, UK student, and UDA dance instructor, Tammy Carlyle, had assisted the females in their dance routine. We had an extra ticket and took Tammy with us. After arriving in LA and practicing, we decided to put a uniform on her and she performed with the squad in the show. In these early cheerleading competitions, the mascot was a part of the routine. Terry Barney performed as the Wildcat. Members of the second place squad were Lee Ackiss, Terry Barney, Barbara Betts, Pat Boles, Sandra Burton, Tammy Carlyle, Cathy Caudill, Sonny Collins, Dana Emberton, Jeff Fossett, Tim Hudson, Greg Medley, Jimmy Mortimer, Jennifer Parks, Richard Polk, and Paula Sumner.
The production was a CBS-TV show, produced by Brad Marx Productions. The show was filmed at Magic Mountain, a theme park up in mountains just outside LA. As I recall, the University of Florida was also there from the SEC. The show was centered on entertainment, and the cheerleaders and their routines were somewhat of a second thought! Lee Major and Jane Kennedy were the hosts. The big-name entertainment included K.C. and the Sunshine Band and the comedian Gallagher, who debuted what would become his famous ?Sledge-O-Matic? routine complete with an exploding watermelon! On the night before the competition, and after practices, we attended a party for everyone participating. It was obvious that an older Lee Major liked the Kentucky females, and I believe that he issued an invitation (declined, of course) to Sandra Burton to visit his celebrity trailer!
On the show, the cheerleaders performed between the entertainment. The University of Southern California Trojan band joined the cheerleaders for the opening number. The routine, for a full six minutes, included a pyramid where Sonny Collins spun a basketball on top of the pyramid on one finger, a ?four? high pyramid where Greg Medley held Barbara Betts on the top, the females dancing while the males did arm-in-arms in the background, everyone dancing, a Swedish-fall pyramid, Dana Emberton juggling oranges while the males threw toe-pitches, and an ending with our ?Christmas tree? pyramid. The squad from Indiana State University, an NCA team, won, and UK took home the second place trophy.
The day after the competition, we chartered a tour bus and did the tour of the LA area. The Florida squad joined us. We visited Muscle Beach, saw UCLA campus, stopped at Old Town (near downtown LA) for lunch, drove down Sunset Strip, and generally did all of the sights of LA. We even witnessed the TV cameras shooting a scene from ?Mork and Mindy?—if anyone remembers the M & M show!
When the show aired on CBS, everyone was invited to the Library Lounge in the Woodland Plaza. Cheerleaders, parents, friends, football players (including the REAL Sonny Collins) all partied with us and watched the show. It seemed that competition was in our blood, but little did we know that the Brad Marks competition would not occur again. And for at least a couple of years, there was no college cheer competition. But that fact was fine with me. I was a believer that leading cheers and representing the University was a far more important function.
Near the end of the 1979-80 academic year, Ralph McCracken asked if the cheerleaders had an end-of-the-year banquet. At that time, the men?s basketball team had a large, public banquet; many other sports had their own banquet. I had never even thought of such a thing. Ralph suggested that we have an end-of-the-year banquet. That was the beginning of a long, wonder series of banquets whereby we celebrate, as well as end, the season and that year?s cheer squad. After the NCAA Tourney and in April, Ralph and Mary Ann hosted a dinner for members of the cheer squad, their daughters, Francis and Margaret, and me. We had a wonderful meal in a private dining room at the LaFayette Club. A couple days before the banquet, Ralph called and asked if I had a program planned; of course, I did not. He suggested that we recognize academic accomplishment. He said that he would give a scholarship to the cheerleader with the highest grade point average. Cathy Caudill (Miller) received that first scholarship?.really a personal check written by Ralph. That was the beginning of the McCracken Academic Cheerleading Scholarship Program. Over the years, hundreds of cheerleaders have received McCracken scholarships that are always based on academic excellence. Today, the scholarships are funded through the Ralph and Mary Ann McCracken Cheerleading Endowment.
Jim Alcorn had indicated to me that at the end of each year the squad voted to recognize the outstanding cheerleader for that year. He had been administering the award that was set up by Stella Gilb. Ms. Gilb was a faculty member in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (now Kinesiology and Health Promotion). Ms. Gilb purchased the trophy from a local trophy shop before she headed to Florida for the winter. Ms. Gilb was married to the former UK scouting assistant basketball coach who worked for the legendary coach, Adolph Rupp. Ms. Gilb was advisor to the UK cheerleaders. In 1954 Stella Gilb had formed the organization we know as Kentucky Association of Pep Organization Sponsors (KAPOS) in order to promote and improve cheerleading in Kentucky. Her goals included leading fans in a positive, sportsmanlike manner while also supporting the cheerleaders themselves to become disciplined young adults as they cheered on their teams. Today, KAPOS continues to award scholarships to high school cheerleaders and those scholarships are named the Stella Gilb Scholarships. The cheerleaders and I were guests at the men?s basketball banquet, sponsored by the 101 Club. I presented the Stella Gilb Outstanding Cheerleader Award at that Banquet.
Within a week, it was time for tryouts and selection of the 1980-81 squad.
Lee Ackiss, Lexington, KY
Barbara Betts, Somerset, KY
Pat Bowles, Louisville, KY
Sandra Burton, Frankfort, KY
Cathy Caudill, Louisville, KY
Jeff ?Sonny? Collins, Lexington, KY
Dana Emberton, Edmonton, KY
Jeff Fossett, Frankfort, KY
Tim Hudson, Henderson, KY
Greg Medley, Louisville, KY
Jimmy Mortimer, Glasgow, KY
Jennifer Parks, Harrodsburg, KY
Richard Polk, Louisville, KY
Paula Sumner, Louisville, KY
Shawn Tackett, Walton, KY
Terry Barney, Louisville, KY
T. Lynn Williamson