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A federal appeals court has ruled that colleges cannot count competitive cheerleading as a sport when trying to comply with gender-equity requirements, upholding a U.S. District Court decision against Quinnipiac University.

In a decision released Tuesday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that competitive cheerleading does not yet meet the standards of a varsity sport under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that mandates equal opportunities for men and women in education and athletics.

The ruling comes on an appeal filed by Quinnipiac, a school with about 8,000 students in Hamden, which had been successfully sued by its volleyball coach after it tried to eliminate the women's volleyball program in favor of competitive cheering.

"Like the district court, we acknowledge record evidence showing that competitive cheerleading can be physically challenging, requiring competitors to possess 'strength, agility, and grace,' the court wrote. "Similarly, we do not foreclose the possibility that the activity, with better organization and defined rules, might someday warrant recognition as a varsity sport. But, like the district court, we conclude that the record evidence shows that 'that time has not yet arrived.'"

The appeals court agreed with U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill, who found in 2010 that competitive cheerleading did not have the organization, post-season structure or standardized rules required to be considered a varsity sport.

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