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09-01-06, 07:23 PM #1
Man kicked off of University of Nebraska cheerleading team because he's a sex offende
Ryan K. Geiger, a 29-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student, said he was kicked off the Husker Spirit Squad because he is a convicted sex offender.
A university spokeswoman said Geiger was never officially a member of the squad.
Geiger was convicted of a felony for online enticement of a child in November 2005, according to a news release from Attorney General Jon Bruning's office. Geiger began serving his sentence in January at Douglas County Department of Corrections in Omaha. He was released in July.
The spirit squad cheerleaders perform at athletic events.
"This person (Geiger) is not a member of any of our spirit teams, and he never has been a member of our spirit teams," said Chris Anderson, associate athletic director and sports information director for the Athletic Department.
Anderson would not comment on why Geiger was never a member of the team or on the department's policy on allowing convicted felons to participate in its programs.
Geiger had an informal tryout for the squad last Friday, Anderson said, but "he was informed on Monday that he would not be a part of any of our spirit teams." Geiger has a much different account.
The senior management information systems major said the same day he tried out, Spirit Squad Coach Vera Branch told him he was on the team.
"They even gave me my athletic gear," he said, which included two uniforms and a duffel bag.
Geiger said Branch also introduced him to various Athletic Department staff members.
"I did a whole tour of the athletic facility," he said. "And in the training room she introduced me to everyone there and said I was a new member of the cheerleading squad … Even put me on Blackboard in the group."
Daily Nebraskan reporters were unable to reach Branch on Wednesday, and she did not return several messages.
Geiger said he filled out Athletic Department paperwork and completed a physical examination Monday morning.
But after practice Monday, Geiger said Branch informed him that he was off the team and needed to return his uniform.
Geiger said talk of his criminal record first came up on campus when he applied for financial aid Monday - being in prison for six months threw off his finances and made finding a job difficult.
Geiger said he assumes news of his felony reached the Athletic Department from there.
That felony stems from a July 2004 investigation by the Nebraska State Patrol Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, during which an investigator posed as a 14-year-old girl in a Yahoo! chat room, according to Bruning's office.
Geiger initiated a two-hour Internet conversation interspersed with sexually explicit language - including questions about what the girl looked like, what she was wearing, her past sexual experiences, masturbation, birth control and abortion.
Geiger then asked to meet the "girl" at an apartment in La Vista with the intention of having sex. He was arrested upon arrival.
Geiger was convicted on November 8, 2005, and sentenced to jail for one year and one day. Geiger was released early in July on a mandatory discharge.
Geiger says his was a case of entrapment.
"Was I chatting inappropriately?" he said. "Yeah. But that's it."
Eliot Schwer, a senior psychology major and Spirit Squad member, said he had no comment about Geiger. He also encouraged the Daily Nebraskan to not contact any other members of the squad about "the situation."
The Daily Nebraskan attempted to contact five Spirit Squad members, including Schwer. Of those who answered or returned calls, none could comment on it, and one said she did not know of the situation.
Geiger said the Athletic Department, and indirectly the university, discriminated against him because he is a felon - but he said he feels he is fully capable of doing well on the Spirit Squad.
Geiger said he was previously a cheerleader at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and was one of the most talented members of the squad.
And with his incarceration over, Geiger said he was just trying to start anew by attending UNL.
"I'm just trying to better myself through education," he said. "And I was trying to help the university's athletics."
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