Fans rushing the field raises safety concerns

At a recent home football game against Florida State, many fans and students celebrated the Jackets’ victory by rushing onto the Grant Field immediately following the game. Since many students did not wait for players and coaches to formally exit the field, there was a great concern for the security and safety of the fans, but game security and police officers were hard at work to prevent any possible conflicts between players and fans.

“You could probably prevent people from coming onto the field but you would have to staff them in such a way…that there would need to be an enormous amount of people [on duty],” said Jeff Gilbert, director of game operations.

Because of staffing limitations, the Athletic Association is unable to provide enough manpower to prevent thousands of fans from coming onto the field. In actuality, a security officer maintains a span of three feet. Thus, about one hundred personnel would be required to establish a full perimeter around the field.

“We had around 60 people on the field [at the game],” Gilbert said.

“We would need to pull people from every level off of the stadium and from traffic duty to be able to have [at least 100 staff] all on the field at the time,” said Dan Radakovich, Director of Athletics.

Hundreds of fans jumped across the fence in a stampede fashion to join the football players on the field. During the process, fans jumped from the walls around the stadium risking injury. They joined from all sides of the stadium to take part in the celebrations.

“There are two dangerous aspects with running on the field: one is the jumping over the wall onto the field, and the second is to take the goal post down and have it fall. If it falls, then it could hit someone and hurt them very seriously. That’s why we wanted to make sure that the goal posts stayed in position,” Radakovich said.

In large part due to the security present on the field and the sportsmanship of Tech fans, there were no known confrontations amongst fans and the opposing team players.

“One of the fears when you have a group coming onto the field is that 499 of them are doing it for the right reason because they are excited, we won the game and they want to celebrate with our players. There could be one individual get in the face of a player by making obscene gestures and begin to taunt the player and if he reacts, then you could have a big problem,” Radakovich said.

The game operators and policing staff maintained a relatively secure environment for the fans on the field. For instance, approximately 12 security agents tightly circled around each of the goal posts in order to prevent fans from destroying the game equipment.

In addition, the usual number of security personnel escorted the game officials off the field. The head coaches also had their standard escort of state troopers on the field with them. After the initial surge, security agents prevented any additional fans from storming onto the field.

“Our concern was about making sure that people were safe on the field including the coaches, staff, players and the kids coming onto the field,” Gilbert said.

The fans cheered along with the players during the traditional rendition of the fight songs. The fans stayed on the field for approximately five to ten minutes afterwards. Eventually, security agents were able to restore order to the field and usher remaining fans to leave through the northwest tunnel.

The institute currently does not have any policies regarding students rushing onto the stadium field. The Athletic Association completely, however, discourages students and fans from coming onto the field for safety, security and liability issues.

“Fans should scream loudly, cheer and stay in their seats. It’s too dangerous when you have five or six thousand people jumping over the fence to get onto the field…We do not approve of the people rushing onto the field,” Radakovich said.

In other conferences, rushing onto the football field or basketball court may lead to a significant fine upon the institute. Other colleges may instate judicial measures against students who participate in such actions.

The event of rushing onto the field is not unique to Tech. Just recently, Texas Tech fans stormed upon the field after upsetting the then top-rated team, Texas. In 1982, Stanford fans celebrated too early and a band member was a part of Cal’s winning touchdown. In 2002, Kentucky fans rushed onto the field despite Louisiana State University coming up with a sudden victory. However, Kentucky fans waited until after the game when defeating then the number one ranked team, LSU, in 2007. Despite its potential safety concerns, rushing onto the field fills numerous historic college football memories.