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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Celebrate carefully, students”

    Rushing the Arizona Stadium field after a big football win brings risks of injury and arrest for students, and the athletics department would prefer they choose other ways to celebrate if the Wildcats defeat UCLA tomorrow.

    But in the end, there’s not much authorities of any type can do to stop 10,000 charging bodies. The stadium’s student section takes up the whole east side, and security would have to cover 115 yards of space to try to prevent a rush, said assistant athletics director Suzy Mason.

    “”With our current setup, it’s dangerous to prevent a field rush,”” Mason said. “”We don’t encourage or like them.””

    Both security officers and fans have gotten hurt during past rushes, and flags and field markers have been stolen, she said.

    The University of Arizona Police Department knows rushing is all in school spirit, but officials said they will be watching for any challenges to safety and security.

    “”We anticipate it,”” said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD’s public relations officer. “”We mainly observe and try and funnel the positive energy on the field.””

    Students have rushed the field after each of the last two Homecoming games, upsets over then-top-10 teams UCLA (2005) and California (2006).

    The tumults both led to injuries and legal consequences after police officers searched for students who climbed the north goal post.

    “”If it’s in celebration and there’s no risk of damaging property or injuring people, we will be there to try and manage the risk,”” Mejia said. “”There’s always those few who give us a bad reputation because of their behavior.””

    In a 2006 NCAA survey, 44.8 percent of participants said fans should not be allowed to rush a football field or basketball court. Nearly 46 percent said their campuses use security and staffing to discourage fans from rushing the field or floor, while 19.8 percent said their schools do nothing, and that rushing is not a problem.

    About 17 percent said their schools rely on announcements and education to keep fans from rushing the field or floor. When a field rush is beginning to brew on the Wildcats’ east sideline, announcements are made over loudspeakers warning students they could be charged with trespassing or ejected from the stadium, Mason said.

    Field rushes across the nation have turned fatal in past years.

    A University of Minnesota-Morris student was killed after a 2005 homecoming game when he was crushed by a falling goal post torn down by rushing fans.

    “”We don’t recommend that (UA students rush), because large amounts of people creates risk,”” Mejia said. “”We understand it happens, so our job is to minimize risk and identify people involved in criminal activity.””

    Jane Pollinger, a media arts sophomore, jumped the sideline fence and rushed after last year’s Homecoming game.

    “”It was a lot of fun,”” she said. “”It was crazy.””

    Pollinger and her friends had been planning to rush from the start of the game if Arizona won, she said.

    “”Even if you didn’t want to (rush), you were pushed to,”” she said.

    Although she did not see anybody get hurt traversing the fence, Pollinger said she knew of a girl from her dormitory who broke her ankle running down stadium stairs.

    Regardless of the associated risk, Polliger said she had a great time running out on the field and cheering, adding that nobody was taking the loudspeaker announcements seriously.

    “”I think it’s fun. It encourages school spirit,”” Pollinger said of rushing. “”It shows that people are excited about their school and the football team.””

    Pollinger said she will probably rush the field tomorrow, if the team wins and the crowd is rowdy enough.

    “”That’s one of those memories that you’ll always have from college,”” she said.

    When crowds get too unruly during games, teams risk receiving 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, according to NCAA rules. Such penalties are irrelevant at the ends of games, but they can tilt the momentum in tight contests still going on.

    That situation didn’t apply in the Wildcats’ 28-14 home loss to Arizona State last November, during which students threw items onto the field to channel their anger, Mason said, adding that Arizona was “”moments away from getting hit with a penalty.””

    “”The last thing we need is for anything to impact the game,”” she said.

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