Education

No guarantee that CCU cheerleaders will be reinstated

Timeline: Coastal Carolina University cheerleading team investigation

Coastal Carolina University’s cheerleading squad has been suspended after allegations team members worked as strippers and escorts. A criminal investigation reveals some cheerleaders were paid $100 - $1,500 per date.
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Coastal Carolina University’s cheerleading squad has been suspended after allegations team members worked as strippers and escorts. A criminal investigation reveals some cheerleaders were paid $100 - $1,500 per date.

Coastal Carolina University will hold cheerleading tryouts and plan to have a team in place for the 2017-18 football season, although a date for tryouts has not been set.

The entire cheer team was suspended in March pending a student conduct investigation.

“The university plans to resume normal cheer team activities as before, and intends to have a cheer team in place before football season resumes,” said spokeswoman Martha Hunn in a statement.

This team is never guaranteed to any cheerleader. Being a returner or a veteran does not secure you a spot on the completion team.

Coastal Carolina University cheerleading contract and welcome packet

But when asked, officials refused to say when — or if — current cheerleaders will be reinstated or if they’ll be allowed to try out for the cheer team again.

According to the 2016-17 Coastal Carolina University Chanticleer Cheerleading welcome packet and contract, no cheerleading position is guaranteed.

“This team is never guaranteed to any cheerleader,” states the contract. “All spots are replaceable at any time. Being a returner or a veteran does not secure you a spot on the completion team. This is based solely off of your skills and position.”

Illegal activity also would result in being removed from the team, according to the agreement, and any team member could be removed at the coach’s discretion.

The team was suspended after allegations of prostitution, running an escort service, paying others to do homework and buying alcohol for minors.

According to a CCU criminal investigation report obtained in April by The Sun News through a Freedom of Information request, cheerleaders involved in the alleged escort service were paid between $100 and $1,500 per date.

Cheerleaders also would receive goods such as Michael Kors purses, as well as shoes and clothes, according to the investigation. One cheerleader was offered $800 to escort a male to New York Prime, according to the report.

The cheerleaders would not engage in sexual favors, the report stated, but the investigation found “evidence of an escort service.”

The cheerleaders ran the operation through the website seekingarrangement.com, according to the report.

Text messages between cheerleaders advised team members working at strip clubs, including Thee DollHouse, to quit their jobs until after a national cheerleading competition taking place in Dayton Beach, Fla., according to the report.

Amy Lawrence, an attorney who is representing five of the cheerleaders, called the suspension “unprecedented.”

“I am shocked and saddened to see these girls become victims of these baseless claims from an anonymous source,” Lawrence said in a news release. “Even more disheartening is that these girls were not permitted due process in their own defense to show just how outlandish and ridiculous these allegations truly are.”

The investigation found that 11 cheerleaders were aware of the escort service and seven were not aware, CCU reported.

The letter

On March 13, CCU officials including President David DeCenzo, university counsel Timothy Meacham and cheer coaches Marla Sage and Kelly Moore, met to discuss a letter mailed anonymously to DeCenzo’s office that sparked the investigation.

The letter alleged the cheerleaders were engaged in prostitution, stripping, drinking and forcing younger cheerleaders to partake in underage drinking. They were not “accepted” into the team unless they took part, according to the letter.

Investigators were able to get a picture of the person who sent the letter and signed it “a concerned parent.”

The man was white, heavy-set and had “salt and pepper-colored hair.”

His identity has not been determined.

According to the anonymous letter, “several girls” have quit the team “due to these disgusting issues.”

The letter writer lists six allegations. He alleges: 1. Several girls are working at local strip clubs and also prostitute themselves out. 2. Several cheerleaders pay students to do their school work. 3. A veteran cheerleader hosted a party where several underage cheerleaders were caught drinking. 4. A few girls use illegal drugs, “especially smoking pot.” 5. A few of the girls provide alcohol to minors. 6. Cheerleaders buy alcohol with a fake ID and provide it to other cheerleaders and other students.

Christian Boschult: 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian

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