by Alex Gillespie
If you are involved in cheerleading at all or are interested in trying it, you’ve probably seen multiple “best places to cheer in college” rankings. This, however, is a little different. Instead of ranking by who wins the most or who has the coolest uniforms or whatever criteria you have seen before, we decided to check out all aspects of various programs, give them points, then let the numbers do the ranking.
We created four categories to use as our criteria.
- Scholarships offered: Schools that offer no scholarships get 0 points, and five points to schools that offer full rides and/or more than $1000 a year. Other scholarships amounts were awarded points based on what they were. Some schools scholarship information could not be found, so we worked them in where we felt they fell in the list regardless of the scholarship amounts.
- Academics: While we didn’t dive in to what kind of grades you need to get into the college or how hard the schools are, schools that offered a variety of majors with well respected programs received five points.
- Game day atmosphere: One of the coolest parts of cheering in college is being down on the field or on the sideline of games. For this category, five points were awarded to schools that have incredible game day atmospheres, the kind you hear about on TV. Five points were also awarded to schools that had strong football and basketball programs, because those are the main two events that cheerleaders are there for. Three points were given to the teams that represent smaller athletic programs and teams that schools that primarily are known for just one sport.
- Competitiveness: Teams that have won a national title or are consistently in the top three in their divisions were awarded five points. Teams that are always strong competitors but haven’t made their way to the top yet were given three points, and teams that are still working their way up received one point.
So, let’s get to it.
40. Central Michigan University – Mount Pleasant, Michigan
CMU was one of the few teams at UCA College nationals to have an all girl and coed IA team to make finals. They also field a small coed team so there is something for every type of athlete that makes the team.
39. University of Central Arkansas – Conway, Arkansas
UCA has two very strong competitive teams. The small coed team won back to back NCA Division I titles in 2012 and 2013 and the large coed team won in 2014.
38. Davenport University – Grand Rapids, Michigan
They are the only D III on this list, but they are as deserving as any. The all girl squad from Davenport University could easily compete with the big dogs from Division I. They are the reigning D III NCA National Champs.
37. Austin Peay State University – Clarksville, Tennessee
APSU has had a consistently strong cheerleading program for years and has, in recent years, become a strong large coed division I competitor at NCA Nationals. Lead by two former University of Kentucky cheerleaders, Austin Peay has great leadership and is moving in the right direction. Though it is a smaller school, they offer cheerleading scholarships.
36. Trinity Valley Community College – Athens, Texas
As you go down this list you are going to notice something – community and junior colleges in Texas have some great cheerleading squads. Trinity Valley is the first up on our list. They have won nine Junior College titles at NCA Nationals and are among the top in their division every year.
35. Columbus State University – Columbus, Georgia
CSU has won 11 Division II titles since 2002 in the large and small coed divisions. While none of those titles have come since 2010, they are still a program and a great place to check out for prospective college cheerleaders.
34. Wilmington University – New Castle, Delaware
Another strong D II competitor and the 2015 Small Coed D II UCA National Champs come from WU. They, year after year, have a competitive team as well as good finished in the all girl and coed partner stunt divisions.
33. Stephen F Austin State University – Nacogdoches, Texas
SFA has a small and large coed cheerleading squad that competes at NCA Nationals and is known as being one of the most close knit cheerleading programs out there. Tradition within the program is not the only that is strong, as the teams always place well in the national competition.
32. North Carolina State University – Raleigh, North Carolina
NC State is a program that is strengthening every year. They field division IA large and small coed teams that compete at NCA College Nationals as well as cheer for one of the nation’s top basketball programs. Their cheerleading teams have continued to move up in placements, placing 2nd in all girl partner stunt, 5th in large coed, and 4th in small coed at NCA Nationals in 2014.
31. Bowling Green State University – Bowling Green, Ohio
A strong competitor in the small coed division at UCA Nationals as well as an up and coming all girl team, BGSU is a great destination for a cheerleader who wants to continue in college.
30. University of Delaware – Newark, Delaware
The back to back Division I UCA National Champions come from UD. They also have an all girl cheerleading squad. Some scholarships are available for coed squad members but even if you don’t receive scholarship money, rings are pretty nice too.
29. Georgia Institute of Technology (GA Tech) – Atlanta, Georgia
Georgia Tech is probably the strongest school academically on this list and is unique in terms of college cheerleading because they compete twice, not just once, a year. Georgia Tech competes at Cheersport and at NCA College Nationals.
28. Sam Houston State University – Huntsville, Texas
Sam Houston is a solid destination to be a college cheerleader for both all girl and coed athletes. They offer up to $2,000 scholarships for their athletes and are a competitive program at NCA Nationals. They are home to the 2014 All Girl Division I NCA National Champions and 2015 UCA Coed Partner stunt champions.
27. University of West Georgia – Carrollton, Georgia
The D II dynasty – West Georgia has won a total of 18 titles. Their coed squad has won 11 of those in Division II Coed at UCA Nationals, the most recent coming this year. UWG All Girl has the other seven, coming from All Girl Division I, where the finished 2nd this year.
26. Pennsylvania State University – University Park, Pennsylvania
Penn State is a cheerleading program on the rise with a great college and game day atmosphere to go with it. Both their all girl and coed teams made finals at the 2015 UCA College Nationals.
25. Hofstra University – Hempstead, New York
Hofstra University is home to the 9-time UCA College National Champions in the Small Coed Division I division. You could say they are the Kentucky of UCA Small Coed. While Hofstra isn’t a huge school and only limited cheerleading scholarships are available, the rings and titles speak for themselves as to why this school is on our list.
24. San Diego State University – San Diego, California
Living close to the beach in sunny California plus cheering on a strong all girl or small coed competitive team was enough for SDSU to make our list.
23. Florida State University – Tallahassee, Florida
FSU fields both a coed and all girl cheerleading squad that competes at UCA Nationals. While they don’t offer cheerleading scholarships, getting to cheer on one of the country’s top football teams and living in a place with nice weather year round help make up for that.
22. University of Minnesota – Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Minnesota Gophers have one of the largest spirit programs in the country, fielding an all girl and coed team that competes, and a small coed team. They also credit themselves with the birth of sideline cheerleading, so they have to make this list right?
21. Mississippi State University – Starkville, Mississippi
The Bulldogs of Mississippi State have it pretty nicely – they cheer for athletics that are strong year after year in one of the biggest athletic conferences (Southeastern Conference) and represent their university in both the all girl and coed divisions at UCA College Nationals. On top of that, the school is located in Starkville, Mississippi which is known for being a great little college town.
20. Navarro College – Corsicana, Texas
This two year school in Texas has one of the best cheerleading squads in the nation. Not only have they won the Junior College division at NCA College Nationals the last six years, but they have also been grand champions for the last three years. If you don’t care so much about cheering big games and just want to win, Navarro might be the place for you.
19. University of Oregon – Eugene, Oregon
Though Oregon does not compete, how cool would it be to cheer for the Ducks? Oregon is notoriously known for their sponsorship by Nike and all of the apparel they receive, so imagine the cool gear you would get being on the cheer squad. They also offer small scholarships for their cheerleaders. That paired with cheering on one of the nation’s top football teams year after year in Autzen Stadium was enough for them to make our list.
18. Washington State University – Pullman, Washington
While Washington State is and up and coming team in the competition world, they have made finals and put on great performances at UCA Nationals the last two years. They made this list mainly because of the awesome college atmosphere in Pullman, Washington. Pullman is in the middle of nowhere, and everyone there loves the Cougs.
17. University of Oklahoma – Norman, Oklahoma
The University of Oklahoma has a storied athletic program with great teams for the cheerleaders to cheer for year round. They also have a strong cheerleading program composed of an all girl and coed team. Cheering on the Sooners in one of college football’s best conferences and getting to compete was enough for them to make it in our top 20.
16. Western Kentucky University – Bowling Green, Kentucky
WKU was one of only two universities at the 2015 UCA College National Championship to have two top ten finishes for Division 1A All Girl (8th place) and Coed (5th place). Though it is a smaller school in a smaller conference, the Hilltopper’s consistently have good athletic programs and make many postseason appearances at tournaments and bowl games. This year, the coed cheerleaders got to travel to the Bahamas to cheer on the football team in a bowl game, talk about a sweet trip!
15. Indiana University – Bloomington, Indiana
IU’s athletic department is known for their strong basketball history but the all girl cheerleaders at Indiana have made a name for themselves in the last few years after a 3-peat in the All Girl Division 1A category at UCA College Nationals. Though they do not offer any scholarships for cheerleading, the University is very strong academically making it a great place to cheer while you are getting your education.
14. Morehead State University – Morehead, Kentucky
If you want to be on one of the best cheerleading squads year in and year out, head on down to Morehead, Kentucky. Both their all girl and coed programs have 10 titles or more EACH. What Morehead lacks in size (as a university) and game day atmosphere, the make up for in cheerleading tradition and national championship rings.
13. Texas Tech University – Lubbock, Texas
Texas Tech made the cut for our top cheerleading colleges because they are becoming increasingly more competitive at NCA Nationals and provide a great scholarship opportunity for their coed and all girl cheerleaders.
12. University of Kansas – Lawrence, Kansas
The University of Kansas has become a top competitor at UCA College Nationals, finishing fourth in the most recent competition. All cheerleaders at KU receive scholarship money and get to cheer for football and for the men’s basketball team, who plays in what is considered to be one of the best college basketball environments at Allen Fieldhouse.
11. The Ohio State University – Columbus, Ohio
The Buckeye cheerleaders had the best seats in the house for their football teams national championship earlier this year then represented themselves well at their own nationals just a few weeks later. They are a steadily improving cheerleading program with tons of potential.
10. University of Memphis – Memphis, Tennessee
The University of Memphis consistently has a strong cheerleading program but they are so high on our list because of the great scholarship opportunity there. They offer 12 full rides for the coed team and up to $1,000 per semester for qualifying all girl team members, which is some of the most amount of scholarships offered out of anyone on this list. They are also a very competitive program having had a team finish in first or second place in five of the last eight UCA College Nationals in various divisions.
9. Louisiana State University – Baton Rouge, Louisiana
LSU cheerleaders lead the crowds at one of the nation’s best college football venues, Tiger Stadium. They are no strangers to being on College Gameday on Saturdays and cheering huge games. They also fare well at nationals every year, consistently placing in the top 10.
8. University of Mississippi – Oxford, Mississippi
Not only does Ole Miss have a great cheerleading program, they also have one of the most beautiful college campuses in the country and great athletic programs to cheer for. They award a good amount of scholarships to their cheerleaders and are improving in competition with each year.
7. Oklahoma State University – Stillwater, Oklahoma
Oklahoma State University is ranked almost every year not only in cheerleading, but also in football and basketball, making it a great place to cheer. Their small coed, all girl, and large coed teams are consistently among the best at NCA Nationals each year.
6. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Tennessee
Nothing says game day atmosphere like leading a crowd of 103,000+ fans at every home football game. If game days in Knoxville aren’t enough to make Tennessee a top cheerleading destination, 12 full tuition scholarships should.
5. University of South Carolina – Columbia, South Carolina
The University of South Carolina has a strong all girl and coed competition team that competes at NCA Nationals and that leads the crowd at games for one of the SEC’s strongest athletic programs.
4. University of Louisville – Louisville, Kentucky
U of L is home to the winningest program in NCA National titles. Each team, all girl, coed, and small coed, has won the national competition multiple times. Aside from being one of the best competition teams in the country, they cheer for one of the nation’s elite basketball programs as well as cheering for the football team that has done well in recent years.
3. University of Central Florida – Orlando, Florida
UCF is one of the perennial powerhouses in college cheerleading. They are consistently among the top three in Division 1A Coed cheer and offer scholarships to up to 16 of its cheerleading squad members. The school is also in a great location, just a few minutes from Disney World and where the weather is nice pretty much year round making it an enjoyable place not just to cheer, but also to go to school.
2. University of Alabama – Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Getting to cheer for the 15-time national championship football team, having access to some of the best athletic facilities in the country, and being on one of the best cheerleading teams in the nation make Alabama one of our top colleges for cheer. The Crimson Tide’s cheerleading program made history this year when they won the Division 1A cheerleading title in both coed and all girl.
1. University of Kentucky – Lexington, Kentucky
The 20-time UCA National Champions are at the top of this list for more than just their impressive number of titles. On game day, whether it be football or basketball, Kentucky fans show out making UK not only one of the most competitive places to cheer at, but one of the most fun. From cheering big SEC games to Final Fours and National Championships, plus earning championships of their own, cheering at Kentucky is a perfect mix of sideline cheering and competition.