I had known COL. Jim Alcorn since my undergraduate days. I really don’t recall when we first met. After retiring as head of the Army ROTC at UK, he became a UK administrator. I admired him, and viewed him as a student-friendly administrator; I always felt that we had a mutual admiration society. When I received my undergraduate degree (spring 1968), I had planned to go to law school; however, at the height of the Viet Nam war, the draft had other plans for me. Rather than being drafted, I enlisted and applied to go to Office Candidate School (OCS). Due to the numbers of persons going to OSC, there was a delay in my entering into the service. At that time, COL. Alcorn was in charge of the Placement Service at UK. I went to visit him, seeking advice as to what I might do for the six months delay period. Before I left his office, he had me an interview for a teaching position in the Clark County (Winchester) School System. I went for the interview the next day and start teaching the next week.
When I started working at UK in Student Affairs in the fall of 1973, COL. Alcorn was serving as Advisor to the UK Cheerleaders. Each spring he would call and ask me to assist in the tryout process by calculating the judges’ scores. He felt that it was important to have someone outside his Placement Service office, outside and uninvolved in cheerleading to calculate the judges’ scores. I volunteered to calculate, usually dragging along one of my co-assistant dean of students—most often Margie McQuilkin. We became the “official” calculators of the judges’ scores for many years. We stayed in a back room the entire time; I had never observed the entire tryout process until I became in charge of it!
In the fall of 1977, COL. Alcorn informed Director of Athletics Cliff Hagan that, after 14 years of serving as the Advisor to the UK Cheerleaders, he was ready to retire from that responsibility. Unbeknown to me, my boss, Dean of Students Joe Burch and Cliff had a meeting in which Cliff proposed moving the cheerleaders to the Dean of Students Office, treating them somewhat like a student organization, and assigning an advisor to the cheerleaders from the Dean of Students Office.
Around the beginning of basketball season, Joe Burch and I went to lunch at our usual lunch place, the Saratoga Restaurant on High Street in Chevy Chase. He explained what Cliff had proposed. Joe suggested that “we” take on this task. I recall that he suggest the he could travel to some trips and I could travel to others. I told Joe that (1) I really was not interested, (2) I knew nothing about cheerleading (other than calculating scores at tryouts), and (3) I thought that there were probably better Student Affairs things that I could do with my time. He suggested that I think about the concept. I agreed to do that.
I recall thinking about the cheerleading advisor assignment for one or two minutes, and I recall verifying my initial reaction—-I was not interested. Three or four days later, Joe and I returned to the Saratoga for lunch. As my boss, he politely informed me that he had called Cliff and agreed that “we” would take the cheerleading squad.
Less than a week later, on a Tuesday, he and I went over to the Gymnastics Room in the Seaton Building at 6:30 p.m. to meet with cheerleaders. We met squad members Joey Berkley, Caren Crum, Cheri Davis, Renee Mussetter, Julie Welter, Darrell Fisher, Steve Green, Dan Kendig, Kirby Morris, and Jim Winburn and Mascot Gary Tanner.
After verifying with them that COL. Alcorn was retiring from cheerleading and that Joe and I were considering taking the Jim’s role, we talk with the group. We recall that they were certainly suspicious as to why we would want to be their advisors. We returned on Thursday and had some further discussions.
The group was more athletic than I had expected. To my knowledge, there were no cheerleading competitions at the college level. I continued to go to each and every practice. I recall trying to observe and figure out the difference between a back-handspring and a back tuck. The squad members were performing chairs, torches, and arabesque. I thought a chair was something that one used as a seat; I thought that a torch was what the Statute of Liberty held! I recall doing a lot of observing. I did not know enough to make much of a contribution to the athletic/stunting aspects of practices. I was simply trying to learn as much as I could because I figured that next year I would want to make some changes.
Since the entire cheerleading budget was spent by the spring semester, I asked Joe if he could convince Cliff to foot the bill for some travel. Probably grateful that we had taken on his challenge, Cliff footed the bill. Thus far, this “we” concept was working well—-Joe got the money and I went on the trips! On one of the more memorable trips (because of the two defeats), the squad and I traveled on the team charter plane to the away games with Alabama (Saturday) and LSU (Monday). I recall that, on that weekend trip, I first meet Mr. and Mrs. Stamatis who were such a wonderful couple, so supportive of UK basketball, and became our friends on road trips. We took a van and made the trip to Tennessee and Vanderbilt.
By the time basketball season ended, the cheerleaders had cheered 30 basketball victories, with the highlight being the 1978 Mens NCAA Basketball Championship weekend in St. Louis. We stayed at the Sheraton next to the arch and had a wonderful, fun dinner on the Robert E. Lee Riverboat restaurant on Saturday evening after the first game. We all managed to get up Sunday and attend church as a team!
The Monday night game with Duke ranks as one of my greatest all-time cheerleading memories. After the game, around 1:30 a.m., the charter flight left St. Louis. We arrived to a massive crowd at Blue Grass Field. To avoid the crowd and to avoid getting mobbed, airport security escorted most of the basketball team members, trainers, managers, coaches, administrators, and cheerleaders through back-way out of the terminal. We left our luggage and returned the next day to retrieve it.
All and all, it was perhaps the greatest sports year in UK’s athletic history. The football team went 10-1 and won the Peach Bowl in Atlanta. The combined football and basketball record was an astonishing 40 wins and 2 loses.
During that spring semester, with some interest of some additional cheerleaders, we started a squad that cheered for the women’s basketball games. Sue Feamster was the assistant AD for female sports and was supportive of the LadyCat cheerleaders. We were set to have our first official tryout for the LadyKat squad. With his dedication to cheerleading, Jeff Fossett assumed a leadership. Other members of the first LadyKat squad included Paula Sumner, Jeff “Sonny” Collins, Sandra Burton, Cathy Caudill, and Mark Wingate. I recall there were a couple of others; someone is going to jar my memory!
Despite my hesitancy, I was beginning to enjoy my association with the cheerleaders. I loved the positive attitudes; I love the pep and enthusiasm; since I had the freedom to do so, I loved the travel. I was looking forward to running my first tryout process and selection a new squad for the 1978-79 season!
The 1977-78 Kentucky Cheerleading Squad:
- Joey Berkley, Louisville, KY
- Caren Crum, Cynthiana, KY
- Cheri Davis, Morgantown, KY
- Darrell Fisher, Lexington, KY
- Steve Green, Pikeville, KY
- Dan Kendig, Florence, KY
- Kirby Morris, Middletown, OH
- Renee Mussetter, Russell, KY
- Julie Welter, Russell, KY
- Jim Winburn, Georgetown, KY
- Gary Tanner