Contrary to popular lore, cheerleading is not a product of the deep South. Even though the most famous cheerleading crew of all time belongs to the Dallas Cowboys, and the sport's perennial national high school champions are from Kentucky, cheerleading has purebred New England roots. No, they didn't wave pom-poms on the Mayflower (Goooooo Plymouth! Rock, rock, rock!), but they were full o' pep at Princeton University in the Nineteenth Century. Way back in the 1870s, Princeton organized the first pep club, we presume to celebrate their tremendous wealth. And in the 1880s, the first organized yell was recorded at Princeton:

Ray, Ray, Ray!
Tiger, Tiger, Tiger!
Sis, Sis, Sis!
Boom, Boom, Boom!
Aaaaah! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton!

Okay, so it's not Robert Frost, but it was the first time anyone organized a crowd to cheer at a college football game.

But of course, Princeton couldn't dominate this, or any other sport, for very long. In 1884, a Princeton graduate by the name of Thomas Peebles exported the yell and the sport of football to the University of Minnesota. It was in the cold Midwest that crowds first took a keen interest in hopping around and shouting - no doubt to survive the chill and pathetic athletics - and in 1898, Johnny Campbell made cheerleading what it is today. As an undergrad at Minnesota, Campbell directed the crowd in the still-used cheer:

Rah, Rah, Rah!
Sku-u-mah, Hoo-rah, Hoo-rah!
Varsity, Varsity!

From there, cheerleading took off.

Minnesota again pioneered innovations in the sport in the 1920s, when women first became active cheerleaders - prior to that time, boys had all the fun. In fact, some of our most famous male cheerleaders have included such studs as Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jimmy Stewart. But let's not kid ourselves . . . Charlie's Angel Cheryl Ladd and Miss America Phyllis George have also led their fair share of cheers. It was not until the middle of the Twentieth Century that pom-poms were developed as a vital prop. Cheerleaders incorporated tumbling and gymnastics into their routines around the same time. The sport reached the big time in 1978, when CBS first televised the National Collegiate Cheerleading Championships, and by that time, universities began offering scholarships, college credit, and four-year letter programs in the sport. Today, cheerleading pervades all American athletics, from friendly football to professional athletics.

SoYouWanna know more? Check out our full-length article SYW be a cheerleader?