We all know the Vols as fantastic teams with even talented players, football, baseball, basketball, just name the sport. But what about the cheerleaders? What do we know about them? The truth is that the Vols cheerleaders have a remarkable history in their own right. Always a staple in their community, they bring hope and compassion to those around them.
The Vols Cheerleaders have a history of being involved in charities & other helpful organizations. Vols cheerleaders have even been know to pump gas for the elderly. The Vols community has grown to love them, and young people strive to be like them. They have shown our community what amazing talent and dedication looks like, and all Tennessee fans and Big Orange Nation are happy to cheer on our Vols cheerleaders.
The University of Tennessee had its first cheerleader in 1907. His name was Robert Matthews. They called him Red for short. He started as a professor of drawing but later agreed to be their first cheerleader. He remained a cheerleader for nine years. He brought attention to an activity that previously had none.
After Red’s stint was over, UT began adding the orange and white design as early as 1927. Red is known for starting many of the traditions that UT would be known for, Vol nation has never forgotten Red or his legacy. If it wasn't for Red, many have wondered if the squad would have ever gotten the start that they did, and developed the traditions of Tennessee cheerleading.
The cheerleaders started with men, and they had their first all-male squad in 1927, but believe it or not, women didn't join the cheer leading squad until 1938.
The time then was more demure than it is now, and the uniforms reflected that as did the cheers. As the 1930s began, the outfit consisted of full skirts and sweaters were the standard go-to outfit, and the 40s and '50s followed suit and trend. The tricks and cheers brought people out to the games. As Tennessee football earned so much love and popularity, a love of cheer leading followed right behind them in the deep history of Tennessee Sports.
It was a wonderful time for women as they were not only cheering along with side the men, and for the men's teams, they were cheering on fellow women as well, next to females who had the same goals they did.
It was a new journey for cheering and the people on the team. Because of this, the women cheering had more opportunities. Girls who watched the cheerleaders working so hard to bring excitement and pride for their teams had said they had a dream to become cheerleaders themselves. Young men saw the athleticism and wanted to try joining for themselves. It was inspiring and gave a new generation hope for change, new challenges, and the ability to come together.
The 1960s was vastly different as the hair got more prominent, and the uniforms were decidedly shorter, and this would mark a trend that would continue until today. The use of new equipment and cheers was in line with the new look, and people who had never been fans of football were flocking to Tennessee sporting events.
The 70s, however, brought controversy because the uniform had short sleeves and a short skirt. That meant that there was more skin showing than ever before, and it was a little shocking to some fans. It was also the time that there was a small backlash to cheerleaders posing in provocative pictures. The situation was rectified immediately, and thankfully, the reputation of UT and its cheerleaders didn't suffer too much from the over all public backlash.
From the 1970’s on, the Vols cheerleaders continued to rise and become more involved in their community and ensuring that they would be able to take the team to another level. They became one of the most recognizable cheer teams in the country by making hundreds of appearances at community events, athletic events, and corporate events.
The charity events that they involved themselves in also showed Tennessee that they cared and had a love for those in their home state. In doing so, even people who didn't have a love of cheer leading found themselves tuning in just to see the cheerleaders. They also cheered at the football games, as well as the Lady Vols games and the home basketball games as well. The Vols cheerleaders were everywhere in the community.
They were making a community stand up and support their teams. Because of the efforts of cheerleaders during this time, UT sports have become a staple that the state of Tennessee has become known for.
Earning strength in the community and a reputation for bringing a dream to people everywhere, they finally met their ultimate goal. In 2020, they were able to put their name in record books by winning their first national title in the Game Day Division at the UCA National Championships.
The win marked a historic triumph that will be able to follow them for the rest of their career. They had competed in this event each year. In the past, they had made the finals 22 years out of the past 24. That makes this cheer squad one of the most accomplished in the entire country.
In addition to this, they are five-time national champions in the Jazz Dance Competition. The spirit program has also been able to claim national titles in mascot, cheer, and dance at the 2020 UCA and UDA championships. Mascot Smokey alone was able to win three national titles in the mascot division.
Being able to accomplish this showed the nation that they were able to rise above any challenges and win not just for themselves but their team & the University and community. Throughout their many years of cheering they have embodied great role models for the younger generation and their peers.
Always striving to be better and cheer harder, the UT cheerleaders have shown us what hard work and dedication can do for all of us. They've also demonstrated how we can be better people. They have had campaigns for anti-bullying, helping the elderly, and helping children throughout their history.
The legacy of the UT cheerleaders began a century ago and moved from one person to an entire team. With new and innovative cheers and style changing rapidly with the times and the team was pushing harder and farther than anyone thought it could go, the UT cheerleaders have left a legacy that only promises to get brighter in the future.
They continue to win and inspire people all over the nation every day. For future generations, they offer precisely what they are looking for. The Vols cheerleaders have set a positive example.
For those that dream of being a Vols cheerleader someday, every week on the field or court they display the skills that must be practiced and mastered to make the dream a possibility. The Vol Cheerleading legacy will continue and as Vol fans we need to continue to support them every way we can, every chance we get.