The Brandon Bears football teams can compete for a championship. Their cheerleaders, however, can not.
The decision, allowing the midget and junior varsity teams to play, was made Tuesday. They were barred over the weekend by the youth football conference because a handful of junior varsity cheerleaders were seen on video doing cheers at a barbecue at the home of an assistant coach.
That was ruled to be an unauthorized practice, and the Tri-County Youth Football and Cheerleading Conference tossed the entire Brandon Bears organization, including its two championship-game-bound teams and its 34-member cheering squad, out of the title game.
Tampa attorney Billy Howard said he was approached by a parent who asked him to get involved. He said he talked with conference president Greg Stallings today and other board members and they came to an agreement.
“After a spirited debate, everybody agreed that the right thing to do would be to allow the kids to play in the super bowl,” Howard said. The conference calls its title game the “super bowl.”
The cheerleaders, however, will not be able to participate in future competitions, although they can cheer at the football championship games.
“It made me really upset, because I wanted to do it,” cheerleader Aolani Teuchert told News Channel 8. “And it doesn’t make no sense because we were like trying our hardest and then they just have to take it away from us.”
The decision on the football teams rescinds a ruling handed down by the 14-member conference board Saturday that banned them from participating in the championship games for their respective divisions scheduled for the weekend after Thanskgiving.
The players on both teams range in age from 9 to 12.
Howard said he had contacted Stallings along with a couple other board members and convinced them that allowing the football teams to play in the game would be “the right thing to do.”
“We did discuss if it would be necessary for us to protect the rights of the children, to explore all the options,” Howard said, “which may have included filing an injunction.”
Both teams finished the regular season with 10-0 records and both had 2-0 records in the postseason, setting them up for the final game.
The conference bans came after a Facebook video surfaced this month showing seven cheerleaders doing cheers at a barbecue at an assistant coach’s house. They were in uniform and were doing routines to music. Conference officials became aware of the video and ruled that the routines at the home of an assistant coach constituted an unauthorized practice.
Extra practice time gives a team, or cheerleading squad, a competitive edge, conference officials said.
As a result, the entire organization was barred from further play in the playoffs, affecting about 300 children.
Rules are rules, Stallings said in a statement Monday and the sanctions were unanimously approved by the 14 members of the board over the weekend.
“While the practice rule may be viewed as petty by some, we are very serious about teams gaining a competitive advantage outside the approved practice time,” the statement said. “The penalty for violating the rule is removal of the entire organization from post season play for football and cheerleading. The Brandon Bears have been found in violation of the (conference) practice rule by conducting a practice at a home of a coach outside the approved practice parameters.”
Stallings could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
However, Bears athletic director Brian Jones told News Channel 8 he was pleased with the decision.
“We’re absolutely thrilled and excited that that boys get to play in the super bowl,” Jones said. “Two teams that have worked harder than a lot of kids I’ve ever seen in my life.”