Her obsessive goal of training an elite small-town cheer squad into national champions made Monica Aldama one of the most famous cheer coaches in the country.
But Ms. Aldama, who entranced viewers in the popular Netflix documentary series “Cheer” before her team became mired in a series of controversies, will no longer be head coach at Navarro College. The community college in Texas announced her retirement from its cheer program on Thursday after nearly three decades of coaching.
“There is not a larger figure in the sport of cheer than Monica Aldama,” said Michael Landers, the college’s executive director of student services and athletics. “She is an icon in the sport and built our program from the ground up with class, grace and a championship mindset.”
A former cheerleader herself, Ms. Aldama was hired to teach mathematics and sponsor the cheerleading program at the college in the small town of Corsicana. Over the next few years, she built it into a championship-winning juggernaut that drew ambitious practitioners of competitive cheerleading, who often perform physically grueling stunts and gymnastics.
Under her leadership, the team won 17 national titles in annual collegiate competitions in Daytona Beach, Fla., organized by the National Cheerleaders Association.
The niche world of Navarro Cheer, and its head coach, burst into the mainstream in the 2020 Netflix series ”Cheer,” after a documentary crew followed the team as it prepared for a competition. The series gave audiences an intimate front-row seat for the trials of the squad’s cheerleaders, as they endured Ms. Aldama’s meticulous training sessions and confronted more personal problems.
Ms. Aldama’s no-nonsense coaching style and demand for discipline left some viewers inspired. Others, however, were unsettled by her determination to push Navarro’s cheerleaders to win the title.
The show’s success made stars out of Ms. Aldama, whose students called her “the queen,” and her cheerleaders, leading to appearances on talk shows, a spoof on “Saturday Night Live” and even a live tour. Ms. Aldama joined the ranks of reality TV royalty by competing on “Dancing With the Stars,” and she released a book in 2022.
But the team also was shaken by scandal. One fan favorite cheerleader, Jerry Harris, was accused of using his status to solicit sexually explicit content from teenage boys. Mr. Harris was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2022 after pleading guilty to two charges of sex crimes involving minors. A second season of the show, two years after the first, showed Ms. Aldama and other members of the squad grappling with that revelation.
Then, a former cheerleader on the team claimed in a civil suit filed in April that Ms. Aldama had pressured her to keep quiet after she accused another team member of sexually assaulting her on campus.
Ms. Aldama called the allegations “demonstrably false,” in a statement, and said she had been temporarily suspended from participating in cheerleading by its national governing body, USA Cheer, as it investigated the complaint. Navarro College, which was also named as a defendant, also denied any wrongdoing.
She was later dropped as a defendant in the lawsuit, according to an amended complaint filed in May. A lawyer for the plaintiff did not immediately respond to a request for comment about why Ms. Aldama had been dropped from the case.
Ms. Aldama has since returned to coaching and no longer appears on USA Cheer’s suspensions list. A spokeswoman for USA Cheer said in a statement that Ms. Aldama had been removed from the list after the organization completed its “investigation and adjudication process.”
In an Instagram post last month, Ms. Aldama expressed “incredible relief” about USA Cheer’s decision, but criticized the organization for its handling of the investigation.
She will retire after finishing the fall 2023 semester, Navarro College said in its announcement.
Lola Fadulu contributed reporting.