LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Back in May, the University of Kentucky made the decision to fire Kentucky Head Cheerleading Coach Jomo Thompson and his staff. This after an investigation into hazing and other inappropriate conduct. About a month later, Kentucky has a new head cheerleading coach. It’s Lexington native and former UK cheerleader Ryan Martin O’Connor. Former UK cheerleader Ryan Heinrich says Kentucky made the right decision on the hire even though most alums still don’t agree with the university’s initial decision.
“Pretty unanimous that the alumni do not support that decision by the university to let Jomo go. He was a role model,” said Heinrich who won three national championships under Thompson. “He was so much more to all of us as a program, but we do…I support the hiring of Ryan because she’s at least got the mentality and the success. She knows what it takes to win.”
Heinrich met O’Connor when they both tried out for Alabama’s Cheer squad. After leaving UK, O’Connor cheered for Bama from 2009-2012, she’d win a national title there. As a coach, she’s made stops at UAB, Ole Miss and last season at Western Kentucky. The Dunbar native has a familiar face to the cheer world. As a Dunbar High School cheerleader then again last summer, she starred alongside her mom, Dunbar cheerleading coach Donna Martin in Lifetime’s “Cheerleader Generation”. Coincidentally, O’Connor and her mom stopped by Good Morning Kentucky last June to talk about the show.
“So Cheerleading Generation it follows both of our teams. I’m the head cheerleading coach at Ole Miss and mom with her squad at Dunbar,” said O’Connor during her appearance on GMK. “And just kinda everything that goes into being a high school cheerleader and a college cheerleader. And then our relationship as mother daughter and coaches. And how we use each other for advice and just kind of our lives in general.”
As O’Connor prepares to take over a program who has won 24 national titles, Heinrich says the program is in good hands and there are three things you need to know about the new coach.
“Number one, she’s a great person and a good role model. So she has been around the sport for many years,” said Heinrich. “She’s well known within cheerleading. Another thing is she loves the University of Kentucky and she has a passion for cheerleading and it’s evident if you knew nothing else about her.”
And the third is a big one …more trophies are Kentucky’s future.
“I think the future holds another national championship to be honest with you. The thing about it is this year all eyes are going to be on the program just to see what happens with Ryan. I don’t for a second think she’ll let us down.”