After Fullerton College suddenly decided to replace cheer coach Katie Bowers with former coach Alix Plum-Widner, the entire cheer team has decided to walk away from the program in solidarity, to support their former coach.
The end of the semester has been tumultuous for the Fullerton College cheer team. According to Bowers, two weeks ago she received a call from the athletic director, Scott Giles, informing her of the news that Plum-Widner would be taking over the team.
“Scott called me on Wednesday morning and told me that he was giving Alix the class back, he said it was nothing that I did and there were no complaints from the athletes, it was purely based on Alix wanting the class back, so they gave it to her.”
As a full-time faculty member, Plum-Widner had the authority to replace Bowers, who was in her first semester at Fullerton as a part-time instructor.
Later that afternoon, Plum-Widner and Bowers informed the team of the decision, prompting a response that Bowers characterized as chaotic.
“I tried to do my best to calm them down, but they were yelling, screaming, crying— it was not a pretty sight,” Bowers said.
Plum-Widner confirmed on Tuesday evening that all of the girls have officially left the team.
Bowers as well as multiple members of the team said that the decision came as a complete shock and in their opinion, the move was unwarranted.
According to Plum-Widner, she decided to take the team back because she felt Bowers wasn’t giving 100 percent to the program, citing Bowers not showing up to football games and cancelling practices occasionally.
Bowers and the cheerleaders acknowledged that she wouldn’t attend all the football games but saw the practice situations much differently.
“[Alix] said that Katie didn’t go to practices, but I cannot remember a single practice that she missed,” said cheerleader Jamilyn Henry. “Alix was actually rarely at practice and when she did come, it would be at the beginning then she would leave for an hour.”
Plum-Widner also said that she felt Bowers was gearing the team more for competition than to support FC Athletics and events.
“The team wasn’t going in the direction that we wanted it to,” Plum-Widner said.
However, the cheerleaders felt the team was finally going in the right direction.
According to cheer captain Stephanie Wallace and her teammates Tori Yrungary, Johanna Flannery and Henry— Bowers was an incredible coach that pushed them to be the best they could be.
“Katie made us a better team,” Wallace said. “Last year she came in the middle of the semester and basically saved us because our old coaches left us out of nowhere.”
“We started literally from the bottom. We were terrible, and over two months she has dramatically changed us,” Wallace said.
According to Wallace and Henry, one of the main grievances about Plum-Widner is that she is a pilates instructor, not a cheer coach.
“To be a cheer coach, there are a certain set of qualifications that you need, and Alix doesn’t have them,” Wallace said.
Bowers said that she has used the same coaching methods to win three national championships at the high school level, and her influence was already beginning to pay dividends at Fullerton. At the first cheer camp with her new team at UC Santa Barbara, the girls took first place in four different categories and won best overall team at camp. According to Bowers, it was something that Fullerton College had never accomplished before.
Dean of Physical Education David Grossman said that because it was a personnel issue that he could not discuss the details and that the girls should have brought their concerns to him.
“At the end of the day, it is a class that they are enrolled in, and they are expected to attend and continue,” Grossman said. “The cheer program has a coach, class is going to be offered in the Spring, and we are going forward.”