Members of the UB Dazzlers wish to be recognized by the UB Athletic Department
The dance team is currently affiliated with UB's Thunder of the East marching band
UB’s Dazzlers and cheerleaders may both be wielding pom poms at football games, but that doesn’t mean the university views the two groups in the same light.
The Dazzlers wish it did.
The UB Cheerleaders practice for nine hours a week and the UB Dazzlers practice for six hours a week. Both teams perform at the football and basketball games. The UB Cheerleaders are recognized as an athletic team by UB Athletics, but the Dazzlers are not.
“It’s awful,” said Kaylee Rizzari, a senior legal studies and psychology major and member of the Dazzlers. “We stand alongside the cheerleaders at games, learn dances two days before performances and get no recognition.”
Cheerleading, though recognized by UB Athletics, isn’t considered a sport under NCAA’s Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination in schools that receive federal funding.
The questions around cheer and dance teams and the recognition they receive extends to Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium, too. The Buffalo Jills are in a current legal battle alleging they worked for free at mandatory public appearances and games. The Bills claim the cheerleaders weren’t actual employees or the team.
Students may view cheerleaders, Dazzlers and UB’s kickline team as all part of the same category, but each group is recognized by different on-campus entities.
As part of the Thunder of the East Marching Band, the Dazzlers are part of Student Life, according to James Mauck, director of Athletic Bands. The Thunder of the East marching band provides the music to the routines. The team could request recognition to be a team, but that would mean splitting from the marching band.
“Student organizations can request recognition by any university affiliated department,” Mauck said. “If they weren’t part of the Marching Band, then they could seek recognition from other departments.”
As a recognized athletic team, the UB cheerleaders are able to register for classes before other students to ensure their schedules work around practice times.
Dazzler team members said they don’t get scheduled study hall hours or workout times like the recognized sports teams do, leaving them to do schoolwork and workouts on their own time.
UB’s cheerleading team is recognized by the Athletics Department as a “Spirit Team,” according to cheerleading coach Amy Zabawa and the Athletics website.
Some of the Dazzlers weren’t aware of the possibility that they could be recognized by Athletics.
“The only way this is a plausible idea is if athletics chooses to take the Dazzlers in a different direction; one in which we do not need the band to operate,” said Angela Demarco, a senior psychology major and captain of the Dazzlers. “Either both the band and the Dazzlers are part of athletics, or we both are not.”
The Dazzlers is a UB dance team of 14 girls and their style includes pom, hip-hop and jazz. They practice for two hours three times a week as well as participate in community events. They have performed at the Special Olympics, Relay for Life and the Childcare Safety Walk.
Dazzler practices count as a two-credit class for dancers. All members of the team, as well as the band, can receive $500 to $700 in the form of a participation scholarship. Still, they’d like to be considered an athletic team.
Tumbling, flying and basing experience is required to be a cheerleader. A double pirouette, high kicks and jumps are just a few of the requirements to be a Dazzler. Anyone trying out for the Dazzlers must also have an overall “collegiate image,” which includes personality, performance and physique.
The cheerleaders practice for three hours three times a week. The 28-person co-ed team works on tumbling, stunts and pyramids followed by conditioning. Beside the games at UB, the cheerleaders make appearances at UB events and national competitions.
“Cheer brings talented athletes together to help promote a great collegiate sports experience,” coach Zabawa said.
Pedro Bryan Acosta, a senior dance major and UB cheerleader, said both cheerleading and the Dazzlers are time-consuming and physically straining.
Acosta has cheered for three years and danced for about 10 years. His love for both cheering and dancing sometimes conflict during the fall semester. He would have to quit cheerleading be in a performance by Zodiaque Dance Company.
As a male cheerleader, Acosta is responsible for all of the heavy lifting. He said that physical contact and high energy definitely makes cheerleading a sport.
Instead of sneakers, tumbling and stunts, like the cheerleaders, the Dazzlers have high boots, high kicks and pirouettes.
Kayla Grazen, a senior business administration major and president of UB Kickline, believes dancing is an “incredibly athletic pursuit.”
UB Kickline is a Student Association club that is student-led and non-tryout. Girls with different levels of experience are on the team and they perform at various events on campus.
Grazen said she didn’t try out for the cheerleading team or the Dazzlers because she didn’t think that she had enough skills and experience.
“I was very interested in Kickline because of the fact that there was no tryout and that it was something unique,” Grazen said. “I love the fact that we are a team but that there isn’t an attitude of competition amongst the girls on the team.”
Grazen was a cheerleader in high school and attended Florida State University before transferring to UB. At FSU, the dance team was an official part of athletics and was just as much a part of the game as were the cheerleaders.
“It would only make sense for the Dazzlers to be recognized by athletics,” Grazen said.
The Dazzlers cheer on UB at every home game. They said some of the difficulties that come with not being recognized are worth it when the fans appreciate their hard work. Getting “dolled up” and being on the sidelines is what makes Demarco grateful to be on the team.
“Our fans feed off of us,” Demarco said. “If we stay sharp and energetic, the fans keep their morale up as well.”