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Ryan Martin O’Connor Named UK Cheerleading Head Coach

Ryan Martin O’Connor has been named head coach of Kentucky’s cheerleading program.

This evening, UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart announced O’Connor, who built the UAB and Ole Miss cheerleading programs into national contenders in recent years, would be replacing former coach Jomo Thompson.

“Ryan is exactly the kind of person we wanted to hire as we sought the next leader of Kentucky cheerleading,” Barnhart said. “She has a proven track record of success, brings incredible energy to her work, and shares our commitment to both integrity and competitive excellence. Not only that, she also has an intimate understanding of the proud tradition of this program and what it means to cheerleaders, this university and the Big Blue Nation. We are excited to help her write the program’s next chapter.”

O’Connor comes to UK from Western Kentucky University, where she was the head cheerleading coach and spirit program coordinator. At UK, she will be in charge of the 24-time national champion Wildcats’ coed cheerleading program.

“It’s a dream come true to be back home in Lexington to lead the best cheerleading program in the country,” O’Connor said. “I have watched this program my entire life and I can’t wait to experience these traditions again from a new role. I look forward to continuing our success and building on our game-day atmosphere. That’s what our cheerleaders and the best fans in the world deserve.”

A native of Lexington, O’Connor was a five-time KAPOS state champion and a five-time UCA National High School Cheerleading Champion while cheering for Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

O’Connor was a cheerleader at UK from 2008-09, then at Alabama from 2009-12. While with the Crimson Tide, she won the 2011 UCA College National Championship. O’Connor graduated from Alabama in 2012.

She was a part of Team USA Coed in 2011 and 2012, winning the ICU gold medals both years. She was also on the Team USA All-Girl squad in 2013, when she and the team won another ICU gold medal.

While at UAB, O’Connor’s squads produced four top-10 finishes at UCA College Nationals, as well as in group stunt.

At Ole Miss, O’Connor’s all-girl squad claimed a Gameday National Championship, in addition to two third-place finishes, a fourth-place result and a seventh-place showing in the D1A Division. In Coed, her Ole Miss squads finished third and fourth in Gameday and seventh in the DIA Division. She also had group stunts teams finish fourth and seventh and partner stunt teams that recorded 10th and 11th-place finishes.

Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

5 Comments for Ryan Martin O’Connor Named UK Cheerleading Head Coach



  1. lribookend
    9:37 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    Makes one wonder why she transferred from UK to AL.



  2. chardun20
    10:28 pm June 23, 2020 Permalink

    I wonder how the cheerleaders will receive her, since most of them backed the old coach?



  3. dan1965
    8:03 am June 24, 2020 Permalink

    Wondered the same thing myself,about why she transferred, but it could have been something as simple as her field of study,but it would be interesting to find out.
    I think she’ll be received ok, after all she didn’t have anything to do with Jomo being fired, the job became available, and their going to hire somebody.
    Have to wonder though about her being able to continue the winning tradition. I mean she was just at UK for 1 year, and although she did win a championship at Bama,and the other places she was at her squads did pretty well,is it good enough to continue the Kentucky cheerleading tradition.
    And I mean no disrespect,I am truly pulling for her. But what type things I’m wondering about are the type of cheers,the routines, will all these things be high enough to the point Kentucky is competing for National Championshis year in and out ? Hmmm, where have I heard that ask before ?



  4. CJKAssassin123
    6:45 pm June 24, 2020 Permalink

    I think she will do fine,too be honest I don’t think she is going to change much if anything from a terminology standpoint. I honestly think it will be like Jumo was never fired from that aspect. You know the saying” if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I just think really the only thing that will drastically change will be the way the program is run from a structural and adminstrative standpoint, meaning will use practices that will ensure any type of illegal activity within the program does not occur. All of the cheer stuff will be mostly the same. Mitch is pretty good with hires. He has made some bad ones like Gillispie,and Joker Phillips. However all of his recent hires which include Mark Stoops have been amazing hires.



  5. satcheluk
    9:28 am June 25, 2020 Permalink

    I wouldn’t want to be the first coach in after what just happened.