The new men in uniform

Susan Fanelli, Staff Reporter Mackenna Barker

It’s the season that never ends. Whether it’s a football game, a baseball game, a freshman welcoming or a pep rally, the Tulane cheer team is there for the action. 

Cheerleading is often seen as an in-between team. While the team is fully encompassed by Tulane Athletics now, the cheerleaders are not under NCAA contracts and do not receive the full benefits like the other teams, such as access to tutors or the new nutrition center in the Wilson Athletics Center. Nevertheless, their energy and dedication to what they do matches that of any other team on campus.

Of the 25 members on the squad this year, three of them are men, Zachary Harris, Andrew Prejean and Patrick McLean. This is the first year that all three of them have been on the team, joining after being inspired by both the team’s talent and by encouragement from their friends, some of whom were cheerleaders themselves.

While they are not the first male cheerleaders in Tulane history, the three of them make the highest number of male cheerleaders on the squad in the eight years that coach Lee Anne Bugg has been coordinator for the cheerleaders.

The three men, who support the other cheerleaders on their flips and help to pump up the crowds, are all very different, but share one thing in common: their passion for team spirit. 

Zach Harris is a sophomore from Texas. Harris played lacrosse for eight years before coming to Tulane. When he arrived, he joined the gymnastics club. From there, Harris chose to join cheerleading for the commitment and a more involved athletic challenge.

“It’s just a great way to stay in shape, and it’s a great way to meet people,” Harris said. “The team is really close.”

With a distinctive bright smile, raising the spirits of fans seems right up Harris’ alley.

“I’m enjoying myself and I’m happy when other people are enjoying themselves,” Harris said.

Andrew Prejean, a sophomore native to New Orleans, has always been very involved in athletics. He played basketball in middle school and bowled in high school.

“When I got to [Tulane], I started playing with the volleyball club but that wasn’t as serious or as competitive as I wanted,” Prejean said. “I wanted to get involved in Tulane by some other way. And I already knew multiple cheerleaders, so I figured, ‘Might as well try it.'”

Through cheerleading, Prejean has found the competitive environment that he was searching for.

“It’s a really good way to get stronger,” Prejean said. “I mean, I’ve always wanted to get stronger but making myself go to the gym is painfully boring. So basically, this is a way to go and work out and enjoy doing it.”

Patrick McLean, a senior from Louisiana, as well as a resident advisor in Sharp Hall, swam throughout his high school career but came to Tulane seeking something new. He eventually joined gymnastics club and joined the cheerleading team not long after. Similar to Prejean and Harris, McLean has found the competitiveness and challenges of cheerleading very rewarding.

“I like the athletic challenges it gives to us,” McLean said. “Being on a national sports team all through high school and then coming here and not doing anything again, it gives me something to do again. It’s very structured and there are goals that I’m reaching as opposed to being on like a club team where you’re just doing it for fun. Here, everyone is pushing themselves.”

While being a part of a team that is stereotypically labelled as ‘feminine,’ all three men have received nothing but positivity from the Tulane student body.

“Everyone I’ve mentioned it to was actually like ‘Well that’s pretty cool!'” Prejean said. “So, I haven’t run into [the stereotypes] at all.”

McLean echoes that open reception from his peers.

“Everyone I’ve talked to about it has been really receptive about it,” McLean said. “They’ve all been really supportive like ‘Oh, that’s really cool. I wish I could do that.’ And it’s come to a point where I’m just like ‘Well, you could. Just go try out.'”

Together, Harris, Prejean and McLean hope the student body will come out to support Tulane athletics and support the teams more wholeheartedly. 

“What I want the student body to know is just come out and support us,” McLean said. “We’re not just sitting around and barely working on this stuff, we’re all working on it a whole lot. And we’re out there to support the teams, so also come out to support the teams because they’re also working really hard.”

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