University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell began leading cheers at the school’s football game against Northwestern today in 1898 making Campbell the very first cheerleader and November 2 the official birth date of organized cheerleading. Now WE know em


Fans began cheering from the stands as early as 1877 at Princeton University. The so called “Princeton Cheer” was documented in the February 22, 1877 edition of the Daily Princetonian.

This Princeton Cheer, “Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tiger! S-s-s-t! Boom! A-h-h-h!” was yelled from the stands by students at games and is known today as the “Locomotive.”

When Princeton class of 1882 graduate Thomas Peebles moved to Minnesota in 1884, he transplanted the idea of crowds cheering at University of Minnesota football games.


Then after a losing streak on November 2, 1898, University of Minnesota student Johnny Campbell led fans with a cheer “Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!” during a home football game against Northwestern. Minnesota won the game 17-6 with credit for the victory largely going to Campbell and his cheering fans.

This made Johnny Campbell the very first cheerleader and November 2, 1898 as the official birth date of organized cheerleading.

Soon after, the University of Minnesota organized a “yell leader” squad of six male students who still use Campbell’s original cheer today.

In 1903 the first cheerleading fraternity, Gamma Sigma, was founded.

In the 1920s, athletic motions were first incorporated into routines by Minnesota’s cheerleaders. It was also at this time that cheerleading transformed from a largely male activity to a largely female activity.

Soon Gymnastics, tumbling and megaphones were incorporated into popular cheers, and are still used.


Cheerleaders at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1948

Cheerleaders at the University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1948

In 1948, Lawrence “Herkie” Herkimer, of Dallas, Texas, a former cheerleader at Southern Methodist University, formed the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) in order to hold clinics for cheerleading. Then in 1949, The National Cheerleaders Association held its first clinic in Huntsville, Texas, with 52 girls in attendance.

By the 1960s, college cheerleaders began hosting workshops across the nation, teaching fundamental cheer skills to high-school-age girls.

In 1965, Fred Gastoff invented the vinyl pom-pon, which was introduced into competitions by the International Cheerleading Foundation (now the World Cheerleading Association or WCA).

Organized cheerleading competitions began to pop up with the first ranking of the “Top Ten College Cheerleading Squads” and “Cheerleader All America” awards given out by the International Cheerleading Foundation in 1967.


In the 1960s National Football League (NFL) teams began to organize their own professional cheerleading teams. The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders soon gained the spotlight with their revealing outfits and sophisticated dance moves, which debuted in the 1972–1973 season, but were first seen widely in Super Bowl X (1976). This caused the image of cheerleaders to permanently change, with many other NFL teams emulating them.

On a personal note, I myself became a proud Yell-Leader during my freshman year at Pittsburg State University.  I also went on to become school mascot “Gus” the gorilla for a time as well.  (Yes, I inserted my personal note here, you can figure out the years I attended college from here).

Then in 1978, America was introduced to competitive cheerleading by the first broadcast of Collegiate Cheerleading Championships on CBS.

Today, cheerleading is dominated by all-star programs and cheerleading schools, the Minnesota Spirit Squads continue to lead at the collegiate level consistently reaching national finals and finishing in the top 10 as Cheerleading is changing from being an activity in support of other sports into a sport of its own.

Statistics show that around 97% of all modern cheerleading participants overall are female. At the collegiate level, cheerleading is co-ed with about 50% of participants being male.

Now WE know em


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