Title IX investigation stops body fat testing of auxiliary line

Members of the auxiliary line march during a performance at the Sept. 27 home game against Valdosta State University. The former mandate that the Lionettes and color guard members maintain 21.9 body fat percentage was suspended after a Title IX investigation began in August.

The university suspended testing body fat percentage of members of the Pride of Dixie auxiliary line, and a Title IX investigation began at the end of August, officials said.

Before the 2014 fall semester, Lionettes and majorettes were required to maintain a body fat percentage of 21.9 to perform.

“We have removed the testing because it is a discriminatory practice to prevent performances based on body fat percentage for this type of activity,” said Title IX Coordinator Tammy Jacques. “There were several different concerns and issues. The plan is for it to be permanently removed, but we are still working with them on this.”

Jacques said the Title IX investigation resulted from a student’s concerns.

“A student was talking with a university employee about the requirements creating an environment that causes people not to eat,” she said. “The faculty member wasn’t sure what to do with the info and came to me with it. I contacted our Title IX attorney, and we learned it can be considered discriminatory, so we started evaluating our practices.”

Some girls who struggled with maintaining a BFP of 21 in the past resorted to unhealthy practices to get their percentage down, according to a former Pride of Dixie member.

“I knew of girls not showering and not drinking anything — water, juice — nothing on weigh-in days,” said Meagan Blackburn, a former color guard member. “Most of the people involved with auxiliary had rabbit food diets. I knew a girl who ate baby food because she could get the nutrients without as much bloat or extra weight.”

The health requirements that were imposed on the auxiliaries were in no way unhealthy, said Lloyd Jones, director of the Pride of Dixie band, in an April 2014 interview.

“We encourage girls to talk to their doctors about the health requirements,” Jones said. “We’ve never had a doctor say that this is unhealthy — ever.”

Blackburn said she never knew of any Pride of Dixie members completely starving themselves or purging before weigh-in day.

Although the BFP requirement of 21 was not unhealthy, the testing methods used for the auxiliaries may not be accurate, said Glenda Richey, coordinator of fitness, in an April 2014 interview.

“I’m not really not opposed to the 21 percent, but my problem is their testing,” Richey said.

She said the tester that was used on the auxiliaries uses default measurements for each girl, so if one girl had more muscle than another girl, she would measure over her goal because the machine cannot determine how much of the girl’s mass is fat.

“The Body Fat machine is an Omron handheld machine that sends electrodes throughout your body that calibrates your BFP,” said Rebecca Tedder, trainer for the auxiliary line. “Basically you enter your sex, height and weight, and it reads your BFP.”

A current member of the auxiliary line who asked to remain anonymous said the tests were done without considering height and weight. Because of the girl’s height, she was typically above the BFP requirement.

Richey said the most accurate form of BFP measurement is an underwater test, but because that is not feasible, the skin fold test is the next most accurate and should be used for testing the auxiliary line.

The skin fold test is performed using calibers to pinch fat on the arms, abs and thighs to find BFP, she said.

Jones said the auxiliary line’s BFP requirement differed from that of other Pride of Dixie members because their bodies are more exposed during performances, so they were required to maintain a lower BFP.

“The Lionettes and majorettes, because they wear a sequined swimsuit, (had BFP) standards that’s a little higher than the color guard because (the color guard members) are a little more covered,” he said.

If a member did not achieve the required BFP, she was not kicked off the line, but would be benched for that weekend’s performance, he said.

BFP was tested Mondays, and if a girl was over the requirement, she had to weigh-in again Wednesday. If she had not reached her goal by then, she was benched for the weekend, Jones said.

“They (were) kind of like second string,” he said. “Other athletics, like the football team, have a second string for if somebody is not performing as well.”

Jacques said body fat percentage does not determine a person’s ability to perform.

“If they have the ability to perform like everybody else, they should be able to,” she said. “They can’t be stopped from performing because of what they look like in an outfit. Performance cannot be measure by BFP.”

Girls who were above the required BFP also had to stay for an extra 30 minutes after practice every day, said a member of the auxiliary line, who asked to remain anonymous.

“It’s really easy for a member to say ‘Well, yeah, I’m eating what you told me to eat and not eating what you told me to eat, and I’m doing everything you told me to do, and I don’t see a bit of change,’ well then obviously they’re not doing it,” Jones said. “The only time we’ve see it’s not effective is when a member was not following the plan, and they wanted to attribute some shortcoming — they wanted to blame something besides themselves. We’ve never seen anything negative when they follow the system.”

Jacques said because the girls are athletes, they may be expected to stay healthy and follow a fitness regimen. But, the ability to perform cannot be based on BFP.

To help the girls maintain the required BFP, the trainer provided them with dietary information and showed them which workouts they should be doing, Jones said.

“I am not a dietician, so I never give a diet plan,” Tedder said. “I want them to practice practical eating.”

Tedder said she took the captains through Publix to point out a range of healthy eating options, taught them to read labels and introduced them to foods that are good for their bodies.

She said she also taught the auxiliaries how to work out — doing a lot of push-ups, squats, jumping jacks, distance runs and runs through the parking deck.

The BFP requirements were not in place to encourage girls to be skinny or thin, but to have healthy, fit-looking people on the field, Jones said.

“Those Lionettes smile when they’re kicking, but if you’ve ever tried to do that, you realize how hard that is. I tell people in the band all the time, go on and try to do that — see how long you last,” he said.

Editor’s note: Members of the spring 2014 COM 356 Advanced Reporting class also contributed to this report.