We’ve all heard the sayings, “…when one door closes, another opens,” and the ever popular, “…everything happens for a reason.”
This past April, nearly 100 students tried out for the Tyler Junior College Apache cheer squad only to have their hearts broken with the news that for the 2011-2012 school year the squad would be cut.
“…we wouldn’t know [the results] for 72 hours. It was sketchy from the beginning,” said former-TJC cheer candidate, freshman Kaliegh Benoit. “Once I found out I made it, I was stoked! All of us girls kept up through Facebook and we were all so excited about everything. Then, things got fishy.”
According to Benoit, she began to feel ig– nored when she would try and get in contact with anyone involved with the cheer squad.
“I needed to know about camp so I could schedule camp around my job and nothing was ever set in stone. I started to panic,” Benoit said.
On top of all that, Benoit also said that there wasn’t a single cheerleader from the 2010-2011 season returning for this season. She said the en- tire situation was “sketchy.”
Breanne Hagler, another freshman candi- date, was one of the first to find out the news.
“I was pretty blown away. I was told that I could keep my scholarship, but I wouldn’t be cheering. It was a heartbreaker, for sure,” Hagler said.
Hagler now cheers at rival school Kilgore College for the Rangers.
“Vincent said that he knew a lot of coaches at other colleges and would help us get on at another place, but I don’t think anyone took advantage of that. We all took care of it on our own,” Benoit later said. Benoit is on the Ranger Cheer Squad with Hagler, also.
What makes this issue extremely controver- sial on the Tyler Junior College campus is that the cheer program was the only student program on campus to have been cut completely to alleviate a budget shortfall caused by state budget cuts.
“There are over 60 registered student organi- zations on campus,” said Vincent Nguyen, Direc- tor of Student Life & Involvement.
“Some that are college funded include the Apache Belles, the band, Baptist Student Minis- tries…Las Mas (the drama department) awards scholarships. It cost TJC anywhere from $80 to $100,000 annually for the cheer program and about one-third was just for insurance,” Nguyen said.
“Instead of losing four or five jobs on campus or putting someone on furlough, the administra- tion looked carefully at the situation. Over the past couple of years there was a huge turnover almost annually to find a new cheer coach.They wanted to do things right and have a one-year hiatus to find a good coach. One that upholds and supports the mission of Tyler Junior College,” Nguyen contin- ued. The mission of Tyler Junior College includes the three promises of a vibrant student life, com- munity service, and a quality education.
In the summer of 2011, a new student organi- zation was formed, just in time for football season. Known as the Apache Renegades, it has become a hit on the TJC campus. Making their debut on Aug. 27th at the game versus Coffeeyville Com- munity College.
Being such a big hit and such a big deal at TJC, it really makes me wonder if we’ve already replaced our nationally ranked, East Texas staple Apache Cheer Squad. How long do the Ren- egades plan on staying?
“We want the Renegades to last forever. It gives students a sense of ownership. They can ac- tually be a fanatic for once instead of
going to the games and only seeing a handful of community members. We are trying to change the environ- ment of game day activities. We want students at the games and we want to fill the stands with [Apache] fanatics!” Nguyen said.
“We want students who love being an Apache. We want that four-year college feel with the crazy fans like they have at Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, and USC. We need them to thrive in this envi- ronment. Tyler has the roughest crowd. We want fans to come fill the stadium, wear black, white, and gold and feathers in their hair and energy,” he continued.
What also makes the Renegades so great?
“It costs nothing for the Renegades,” Nguyen said. “The T-shirts were donated, tailgate food has been provided by Valley Services. It just costs gas money to go three minutes up the road to Rose Stadium.”
Call me crazy, but I just don’t see how you can have football without cheerleaders. It’s like peanut butter without the jelly, or Lady Gaga dressing like a dude- it’s just not right. Will the Renegades last forever? It’s rumored that the cheer squad will return to the sidelines in the 2012-2013 school year, however if the Renegades are popular enough, will there be enough interest? Only time will tell.