UGA Cheerleading History
Cheerleading at UGA, as at other institutions, just happened. It was spontaneous. When teams challenged each other, spectators showed up and naturally cheered their favorites.
Historic records show that intercollegiate sports began on the University of Georgia campus in the early 1890’s. Baseball was first and football followed soon after in 1892.
Mercer was the first gridiron opponent. Georgia won that game in Athens and then took on Auburn in Atlanta in what has become the oldest continuing series in the South.
An account of that first game in the college yearbook for 1892 refers to the yelling and chanting of the spectators and identifies Bob Gantt as a leader in urging the fans to support the team. The article claims “the college yells did almost as much to win the game as the fine playing of the team.”
The report says Gantt came to the game with a mascot –a goat with red and black ribbons. Gantt, from Athens, was a member of the class of 1893. He is the first documented cheerleader for UGA.
Soon, cheerleaders were selected by the student body in special elections. Women were added to the spirit squads after their admittance in the twenties. This method of selection continued until the late forties when a system of try-outs was introduced.
Candidates were invited to public try-outs where special judges narrowed the number of candidates to a smaller number from which the final cheerleaders were named. Judges were enlisted from a pool of professors, campus leaders, coaches, and former cheerleaders.
In the early days, cheers were submitted by classes, clubs, and students. Popular cheers survived the years along with chants and songs. In 1943, a book of these old cheers was published by the University of Georgia Press called “Georgia Songs and Yells.”
Through the years the cheerleading program was overseen by a coach or athletic staff member appointed by the football coach or athletic director. Two notable cheerleader “coaches” were Dan Magill in the 40’s and 50’s who was followed by Mike Castronis who served until his health failed in the mid 80’s.
A Cheerleaders alumni Association was organized in 1970 and former spirit leaders were invited back to campus for Homecoming and invited to cheer during the game. The alumni group has officers and is supportive of the current program which is now headed up by a Cheerleading coach who oversees each aspect of cheerleading.