The North Texan Online UNT North Texan contents UNT North Texan feature stories UNT North Texan eagle tale UNT  North Texan alumni news UNT North Texan feedback
MoreUNT North Texan time tracksUNT newsUNT North Texan contact usUNT North Texan past issues
Cheering on the Green and White by Nancy Kolsti
Fall 2003      


story extras

Cheerleader fashions

The Snake Pit

About that bourbon

Cheerleader feedback

other features

For the Fun of the Games

Cheering on the Green and White

Q: Who is the Most Straightforward Host on TV Today?

A Taste for Adventure


Cheerleader Shannon O'Toole dodged tortillas thrown by spectators at her first home football game in 1995. Wade Hampton ('62) received the wrath of Dean Imogene Bentley when he hid a bottle of bourbon in his megaphone.

Wade Hampton
Wade Hampton

And Paula Nichols Cogdell ('83) had her "all-time funniest and embarrassing moment" during a nationally televised basketball game in the Coliseum.

"We were all psyched up, and my partner, Steve Peterson, decided we should do the famous helicopter stunt," she says.

Another female cheerleader sat on Peterson's shoulders, and Cogdell grasped her extended legs while Peterson spun around, causing Cogdell to become airborne and create the helicopter.

"The girl whose legs I held onto broke the cardinal rule — she put lotion on prior to the game," she says.

Cogdell flew off during the spin, and Peterson and the other cheerleader fell. Cogdell remembers looking up and seeing the cheerleader's knees still locked around Peterson and her skirt over his head.

"I began laughing so hard! My partners were so mad at me. The next morning in Kerr Hall, the basketball players gave me a standing ovation. They had watched this episode forward and backward during their film reviews!"

Cogdell says she wouldn't have traded her years on the squad for anything.

Neither would Kristen Rosen ('03), a three-year veteran — even with up to 15 hours of practice a week.

"I loved being in front of the crowds at games, and as a cheerleader, I was able to travel and go to bowl games," she says.

Shouting vs. stunts

Cheerleading first started at North Texas in the 1920s. Until the 1980s, it emphasized yelling and jumping rather than pyramids, partner stunts and throws, and tumbling routines — the emphasis of cheerleading today.

  Pat Noah Graham

Pat Noah Graham


"I had zero gymnastic skills. If I was in college today and tried out, there's no way I would be chosen," says Pat Noah Graham ('53).

"We didn't do anything harder than lift the girls onto our shoulders," Hampton recalls.

Bruce Pfieffer ('75) remembers his squad yelling "Welcome to the Pit!" with North Texas students at the beginning of basketball games in the Men's Gym, nicknamed the Snake Pit.

"We would also start the crowd with stamping their feet by banging our megaphones on the floor. It was almost deafening, since the Men's Gym had lousy acoustics," he says. "It would drive the other team crazy."

Cheerleaders from the 1950s, '60s and '70s were limited to holding pep rallies and cheering at home football and basketball games. They traveled to away games only on special trips sponsored by the North Texas student government association — or when they could raise the money to go.

Stewart McNairy ('72) says his squad went to football games in Cincinnati, San Diego and Memphis after receiving $8,000 in contributions from fraternity and sorority members and Denton merchants.

"The players couldn't believe it when we showed up," he says.

Campaigning for cheerleader

LaGayle Henson Sosnowy
LaGayle Henson Sosnowy

While a committee selects North Texas cheerleaders today, the student body elected the cheerleaders from the 1950s until the early 1970s.

Students wanting to run for cheerleader appeared before a faculty committee, which determined who would be on the ballot, says LaGayle Henson Sosnowy ('66).

"Committee members looked for those who were somewhat coordinated and full of school spirit," she says.

Students on the cheerleading ballot campaigned like politicians. Robert Munday ('55, '57 M.Ed., '65 Ed.D.) resigned from the Student Senate to run for cheerleader.

"I put up posters all over campus, and I had a banner that stretched across a fence," he says.

Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity backed McNairy for cheerleader in the spring of 1969.

  Bruce Pfieffer

Bruce Pfieffer


"My fraternity brother Jim Hobdy ('69) was my campaign manager," he says. "I went to every dorm, lunch table and sorority, passing out buttons. I figured the guys wouldn't vote, so I tried to get the girls' vote."

In 1972, cheerleader selections by the student body were discontinued after a controversial election, Pfieffer says.

"The Vietnam War had divided many students, so one of the eight guy finalists ran as an 'end-the-war' candidate. Three of his friends were write-in 'end-the-war' candidates," he recalls. "I also remember some candidates performing on a trampoline in front of the Union. It was a three-ring circus."

Pfieffer left the cheerleading squad in 1973 to be on the Student Senate. As a member of the Rules and Elections Committee, he successfully lobbied to have a selection committee choose the cheerleaders.

Recognition for athletics

After college cheerleading nationwide became more athletic in the 1980s, squads started competing for stunt awards at National Cheerleading Association summer camps.

Sharon Nash
Sharon Nash and David Slater

North Texas students trying out for cheerleader were required to have skills in gymnastics and tumbling.

"You had to do a back handspring to make the squad," says Sharon Nash ('82).

She remembers practicing for hours at cheerleading camp.

"Our captain, Kenny Goss ('83), was a drill sergeant and perfectionist. He would make us do 10 back handsprings in a row at practice. During camp, we would practice outside at night until 2 a.m.," she says. "We won the highest award there."

North Texas won its first NCA National Collegiate Championship in 1995, a few years after the annual championship began. Two more championships followed in 2000 and 2002.

The benefits of cheerleading

Several alumni from the 1980s and '90s made cheerleading a career after leaving North Texas.

Cogdell gave private lessons for eight years.

  Bobby Munday

Bobby Munday


"Cheerleading has taken a lot of hits with the idea that cheerleaders are airheads," she says. "But we do as much training as any other athletic program."

O'Toole, who cheered at UNT from 1995 to 1997 and placed third in the NCA championships partner stunt competition in 1995, is now on the NCA instructional staff.

"Cheerleading was an after-school activity for me at first. I never thought it would open so many doors," she says. "I've traveled around the world with the NCA, and cheerleading definitely gave me confidence in public speaking."

Alumni who didn't make cheerleading a career say their years in front of crowds also benefited them.

"The socialization skills from cheerleading are fantastic. You learn to be your best self because you're representing the university, and that's something you use your whole life," Munday says.

Hampton calls cheerleading "the ultimate act of demonstration" that prepared him for his sales career.

"I had an incredible time, and I cherish my memories of cheerleading," he says.

Some alumni are sharing those memories with younger generations.

Graham says she showed her yearbook cheerleading photos to her young grandsons.

"The response was, 'Grandmother! Did you really jump in the air like that?'" she says. "Cheerleading was a fun, happy time for me."


UNT home UNT calendarCampaign North TexasNorth Texas Exesathletics