OK, so James Speed may have returned to his hometown of Louisville, Ky., after coaching Kansas University's cheerleading squad for four years. And Speed may now be the head cheerleading coach at the University of Louisville.
But when he walked back into Allen Fieldhouse, heard the crowd and the band and saw all the crimson and blue it happened he got caught up in a flood of Jayhawk spirit.
"I had to do the Rock Chalk Chant pre-game. I couldn't help it. I had to," Speed said, laughing as he watched Louisville's cheerleading squad perform with KU's squad during halftime at the KU-Louisville game, which Louisville won, 85-78.
Speed, who coached the KU squad from 1986 to 1990, said he was having fun visiting old friends at the game.
"IT'S AWESOME, it's like coming home," he said. "Coaching Kansas was incredible. The fans here are incredible. It's just a real neat experience to bring our squad here so they could experience what I had here for four years."
Under Speed's tutelage, the Jayhawk squad came in fourth place in 1989 in the National Cheeleading Assn. competition, then became national cheerleading champions in 1990. As national champions, they traveled to Tokyo to perform, put on cheerleading clinics and served as goodwill ambassadors.
After moving to Louisville, Speed helped the Cardinals' squad defeat Kansas for the 1992 national cheerleading title in competition held last weekend in Dallas. KU's squad finished fifth in the contest.
KU'S SQUAD is now coached by Scott Lamontagne, who was trained by Speed, and Traci Morgason, who also was trained by Speed and was on the KU national championship squad.
"If we had not bobbled out of our routine, we would have given Louisville a good run for their money," said Elaine Brady, KU's Spirit Squad adviser.
Speed, 29, says he owes much of his coaching success to Brady, who offered Speed a job as KU's cheerleading coach after she spotted him as a cheerleader at Louisville.
"I got to see him performing as a cheerleader at a (NCAA) tournament game and watched him teach the KU squad at camp at Southern Methodist University," Brady said.
BRADY SAID that what makes Speed stand out as a coach is that, as a former collegiate All-American cheerleader, he is adept at the routines.
"He knows how to do everything he teaches," she said. "He has little techniques to help them with their skills. He gives them confidence . . . He's superior at creating safe pyramids and he is superior at teaching crowd spirit."
Speed, a 5-foot-8, 185-pound former high school football player, said he was "dragged into" a cheerleading tryout by a friend who also would earn a spot on the squad.
Speed said after finishing graduate school at KU, he was offered the cheerleading coaching job at KU. He said he hated to leave KU.
"But my family was in Louisville. My friends were in Louisville. So I left and I went back home," he said.