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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Field-rushing fracas left plenty of bruises in ’86

Arizona fans have taken some heat lately for their shenanigans since the Nov. 22 football game against Oregon, which included a premature field rushing and an Oregon cheerleader being struck by a water bottle.

But history shows it’s been a lot worse around the Old Pueblo.

According to the Daily Wildcat archives, four police officers and two fans were injured during a field-rushing fracas at Arizona Stadium that followed a 34-17 upset victory over archrival Arizona State University on Nov. 22, 1986.

The underdog Wildcats victory over then-No.4 ASU had major implications, ending the previously undefeated Sun Devils’ chances at a national championship.

That’s a far cry from Saturday’s battle for the Territorial Cup in Tempe, which saw the UA pull out a 20-17 victory over underdog ASU, which finds itself out of the hunt for a bowl game for a second straight year.

Saturday’s game ended with a small scuffle between players at midfield, but no major disturbances.

Maybe they don’t make rivalry games the way they used to.

In the Nov. 24, 1986, issue, the Daily Wildcat’s Patrick Vincent reported that police restrained about 400 fans who rushed onto the field to tear down the goal posts.

About 100 officers from the University of Arizona Police Department, the Tucson Police Department, the sheriff’s department, the Department of Public Safety and the Pima Community College Police Department were on hand to defend the goal posts and conduct crowd control, Vincent wrote.

After the game, a crush of fans rushed the field, pulling up turf and shouting, “”Goal posts. Goal posts,”” according to Vincent’s article, “”Violence breaks out after game.””

Fans made obscene gestures, threw cups and garbage at the police and rushed toward the officers guarding the goal posts, prompting them to strike many in the crowd with their nightsticks.

The on-field sprinkler system was even turned on to disperse the crowd, but the tactic fans began directing the sprinklers against the police officers.

Wes Harrison, 34, told the Daily Wildcat he was beaten by police after turning a sprinkler on the police. He said he was carried off the field with bruises on his upper and lower back, hip and ribs after being struck with a nightstick. He said friends took him to St. Joseph’s Hospital for treatment.

Rene G. Kirchfeld, a UA graduate, told reporters he was tackled by police and knocked to the ground after being hit in the stomach with a nightstick. Other witnesses reported that Kirchfeld was taunting police who were protecting the goalposts, saying, “”Come and get me.””

A police report said Kirchfeld taunted officers with obscenities and threatened to kill them.

He was cited and released afterward for criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct, the only person to be arrested after the incident. He was treated for his injuries on the scene.

“”It was a nasty situation,”” Kirchfeld told the Daily Wildcat.

“”At first I thought it was going to be a game,”” he said, referring to the fans trying to get past the police officers and to the goal posts.

According to the Daily Wildcat article, in another incident, a TPD officer was taken to University Medical Center for a possible groin or spleen injury after he fell during the confrontation with fans on the field.

Then-Tucson City Councilman Brent L. Davis went so far as to compare the mêlée to the infamous riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, saying he was “”visibly upset”” by the incident.

“”I’m not defending the fans,”” Davis said. “”But people got hurt. This is bad PR for the university and for all the police departments involved.””

Then-UA President Henry Koffler called the incident “”very regrettable”” and said the goal posts weren’t being defended to protect property, but to make sure no fans were hurt by trying to tear them down. 

The goal posts had been greased prior to the game to prevent such an incident from occuring.

TPD officer Francis Jordan said afterward, “”We took the brunt of this. We look like the bad guys.””

A UAPD statement released after the game said police actions were necessary to “”protect fans and officials from possible injury,”” including the possibility of someone being struck with a falling goalpost.

A UAPD spokesman did note, however, that the majority of fans were compliant and well behaved, remaining off the field.

 

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