Minnesota Golden Gophers Spirit Squads

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The University of Minnesota Golden Gophers Spirit Squads comprise the cheerleading organization at the Twin Cities campus of the University of Minnesota.[1] Being the first program ever to form worldwide, the University of Minnesota is consequently considered the "Birthplace of Cheerleading".[2] Today, the Gopher Spirit Squads consist of five separate squads: a co-ed squad, a small co-ed squad, an all-girl squad, a dance team, and a hockey cheer squad. The school's mascot, Goldy Gopher, is also a part of the program. The squads consistently perform well at national competitions including 18 national championships in dance since 2003, a 2nd-place finish for All-Girl in 2013, a fifth-place finish in 2017, and three time national champion Goldy Gopher in 2011, 2013, and 2017. The current head coach is Sam Owens.


Johnny Campbell

The precursors of cheerleading began appearing at Princeton University in the latter half of the 19th century. In the 1880s, when Princeton graduate Thomas Peebles brought the game of American football to Minnesota, he also brought the idea of organized fan cheers. It wasn't until 1898, after a losing streak in football, that a Minnesota student named Johnny Campbell began leading cheers forming a squad of yell-leaders for the football game between Northwestern University and Minnesota. Campbell directed a crowd in cheering "Rah, Rah, Rah! Ski-u-mah, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!", making Campbell the very first cheerleader. Minnesota won the game 17-6 with the credit for that victory largely going to Campbell and his squad.[2][3] The "Ski-U-Mah" phrase and other cheers similar to the original yell are still used at the university by the Spirit Squads, as well as by the marching band and across the university.[4]

In the 1920s, gymnastics and other athletic motions were first incorporated into routines by Minnesota's cheerleaders. Women were allowed beginning at Minnesota in 1923, and at that point other schools followed as cheerleading began to transform from a largely male activity to a largely female activity.[2][3][5]

Today, though the pioneering is now 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 to being a sport of its own.[6]


The Spirit Squad coaches have remained relatively consistent since Sam Owens took over the program after graduating from it in the early 90's. The 2012-2013 list of coaches is below.[7]

  • Head Coach/Spirit Squad Director - Sam Owens
  • Hockey Cheer Coach/Spirit Squad Assistant Director - Kristina Anderson
  • Hockey Cheer Assistant Coach - Rachel Cagle
  • Co-Ed Cheer Coaches - Scott Beacher, Jake Patton
  • Co-Ed Cheer Assistant Coach - Brooke Binsfield
  • Small Co-Ed Cheer Coach - Sarah Loschiavo
  • All-Girl Cheer Coaches - Margaret Arnold, Shelby Davidson, Kelsey Hughes
  • Dance Team Coaches - Kim Saunders, Rachel Saunders, Rachel Fellows
  • Mascot Coach/Spirit Squad Coordinator - Jacob Schauf


The Golden Gophers Spirit Squads at the Minnesota State Fair in 2003.

Co-Ed/Small Co-Ed Cheer[edit]

The Co-Ed and Small Co-Ed Cheer squads consists of both men and women, though size varies from year to year. They primarily appear at football and basketball games and are an annual participant of UCA Finals.[8]

All Girl Cheer[edit]

The All-Girl Cheer squad consists of all women as members. They primarily appear at football and women's basketball games and are an annual participant of UCA Finals. The All Girl Squad placed 3rd in 2011, 5th in 2012, 2nd in 2013, and 5th in 2017.[9]

Dance Team[edit]

The Minnesota Dance Team consists of 19 women dancers. The Dance Team typically performs at football and basketball home games as well as post-season games. Between 2003 and 2006, the team won four straight national championships in UDA Jazz competitions.[10] They won another 4-peat National Championship in both Division 1A Jazz and Pom in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013. The team won the national championship again in Division 1A Jazz and Pom in 2014, and in Pom in 2015 as well as 2016 while taking 2nd in Jazz both years. In 2017, the team won national championships again in both Division 1A Jazz and Pom.[11] Since the inception of the Pom classification in 2010, the Minnesota Dance Team has won the national title every year, the only team to ever have won the championship in that category.[12]

Year National Championships Category
2003 1 Jazz
2004 1 Jazz
2005 1 Jazz
2006 1 Jazz
2010 2 Jazz, Pom
2011 2 Jazz, Pom
2012 2 Jazz, Pom
2013 2 Jazz, Pom
2014 2 Jazz, Pom
2015 1 Pom
2016 1 Pom
2017 2 Jazz, Pom

Hockey Cheer[edit]

Although the Minnesota Spirit Squads compete annually in national competitions, the Hockey Cheer is now the only non-competitive squad in the program. The all female squad competed at Collegiate cheerleading camps until the mid-1990s. This squad, cheers at every regular season home and post-season neutral site game of men's ice hockey. On occasion they also appear at pep fests and other Golden Gopher sporting events. In general, there are anywhere between 9-15 cheerleaders, usually around 12. They are known for their figure skating abilities and perform on-ice stunts, the complexity of which set this squad apart from other hockey cheerleaders, particularly at the collegiate level.[13][14] Despite stunting now being somewhat limited, they continue to use modified stunts, figure skating abilities, and uniform selections that critics favor among collegiate squads.[15]

Some Minnesota hockey fans refer to them as the Squad of the Unattainable.[16]

Goldy Gopher[edit]

Goldy Gopher is the mascot for the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus and the associated sports teams, known as the Golden Gophers, as well as the defending UCA Mascot National Champion.

In Popular Culture[edit]

Members of the 2007-08 University of Minnesota Hockey Cheer Squad portray cheerleaders for fictional high school hockey team in the 2008 horror film Killer Movie, directed by Jeff Fisher and starring Paul Wesley and Kaley Cuoco.[17]


  1. ^ "Spirit Squads Homepage". GopherSports.com. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  2. ^ a b c "Securing the Future: The Golden Gopher Spirit Squads". GopherSports.com. 2006-06-11. Archived from the original on 2007-07-30. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  3. ^ a b "THE HISTORY OF CHEERLEADING". cheerleading.org.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-08-24. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  4. ^ Neil, Randy L.; Hart, Elaine (1986). The Official Cheerleader's Handbook (Revised Fireside Edition 1986 ed.). Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-61210-7.
  5. ^ http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?wid=5&hid=138&sid=76593of7-86e8-413b-8483-6f6cf5647f11%40sessionmgr110&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGIZZQ%3d%3d#db=f6h%NV=47640654. "History of Cheerleading." American Cheerleader. Feb. 2010: 26-30. EBSCOhost. 2 Feb. 2012. p. 2.
  6. ^ "2007 College Cheerleading & Dance Team Championship Results". Varsity.com. Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2007-09-19.
  7. ^ "Spirit Squad Coaches". GopherSports.com. Retrieved 2011-09-01.
  8. ^ "Co-Ed Cheer Team". GopherSports.com. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  9. ^ "All-Girl Cheer Team". GopherSports.com. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  10. ^ "Dance Team". GopherSports.com. Archived from the original on 2009-02-12. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  11. ^ "UCA & UDA College: Dance - Division IA Results 2017". Varsity. Retrieved 2017-08-01.
  12. ^ "Great Eight: Gopher Dance Team Dynasty Marches On". The Daily Gopher. Retrieved 2017-08-01.
  13. ^ "Hockey Cheer Team". GopherSports.com. Archived from the original on 2009-06-29. Retrieved 2007-09-18.
  14. ^ "Video: See the talent that sets the Gopher's Hockey Cheerleaders apart from their football counterparts". MNDaily.com. 2007-10-18. Retrieved 2007-10-18.[dead link]
  15. ^ "College Hockey: Notebook: Semifinals". USCHO.com. 2005-04-07. Retrieved 2007-11-14.[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ FTS!!Marching Band at the 2008... (2008-08-24). "Gopher Puck Live • View image - 2008-09 Squad of the Unattainable". Gopherpucklive.com. Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2012-07-11.
  17. ^ "Gophers cheerleaders get a taste of the movie business". MNDaily.com. 2008-06-18. Archived from the original on 2008-06-20. Retrieved 2008-06-18.

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