Here’s what the UConn Daily Campus had to say editorially about the police’s response to UConn students rushing the field Saturday:
Shame on you, UConn
By Meghan Bard and Jen Pinsonneault
This could have been one of the greatest moments for UConn students. This could have been one of the greatest moments in UConn athletics. This could have been one of the greatest moments in all of UConn history. But it was not. UConn routed Kent State in the final game at Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon. It should have been a day for celebration with 50 years of football on the Storrs campus coming to an end. The perfect way to close the day’s ceremony would have included watching the students triumphantly carry the field’s goal posts down Fairfield Way. However, this was far from the case.
It is tradition for students to rush the field and tear down the goal posts after the final game is played in a stadium. Saturday, with two minutes remaining in the 4th quarter of the game, hundreds of students, spectators and alumni began to gather at the fences surrounding the field. Unfortunately, as the crowd grew, so did the police presence, along with their attack dogs. In what should have been a moment of pure greatness, the UConn police, armed with tear gas and dogs, prevented the crowd from getting within 10 feet of the goal posts.
We were there. We gathered by the sidelines, waited anxiously for the clock to run out and we jumped the fences with our fellow students to chants of “team work!” We were met by people on whom the importance of the occasion was lost. Moments of student support for the UConn football team have been few and far between, and yet Saturday one of the greatest shows of support was quelled.
Two years ago, when the men’s basketball team defeated Arizona in one of the most outstanding collegiate basketball games ever played in Gampel Pavilion, students were allowed to rush the court and celebrate with their team. That image is embedded in the mind of every true UConn fan. It has been reshown by our athletic department and university time and time again. Saturday there was the opportunity to create that moment with the football team and that was taken away from the students and team alike.
The crowd pouring onto the field was not unruly or riotous, they, we were merely excited. Who present felt the appropriate response to this celebration was pepper spray and attack dogs? Certainly not the students or the people in the crowd. Where was the athletic department? Where was Lew Perkins? And more importantly, where was the support for the Husky football fans Saturday afternoon? Why would the administration not support their students in a positive display of UConn spirit, a display of husky PRIDE. What should have been a shining moment to carry UConn football into not only a new stadium, but a new era, was lost.
Maybe a better question is where was Randy Edsall? The reason the rushing of the court following UConn’s win over Arizona was successful two years ago, was because Jim Calhoun understood the importance of his student fans. He supported the students’ right to rush. So where were you, Randy, while the police were gassing the cheering students? Jim Calhoun would never have allowed that to happen. Shame on you, Randy Edsall. Shame on you, Lew Perkins. Shame on you, UConn athletic department. We, as students, are disappointed in all of you for not backing up your student fans. But most importantly, shame on the UConn police, for your overzealous attempts to control a problem which did not exist. For the only problem in Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon was the police. While we would never dare to compare the events of Saturday with what happened in Ohio in 1970, we cannot over look the bitter irony of the fact that we were playing Kent State.
Saturday afternoon, the stands filled with cheering fans, the marching band playing our fight song and a great victory on a beautiful November day, the memories of that afternoon will be forever tarnished by the actions of police in the end zones. But you forget, this is a college campus, our college campus. That’s our football team, our stadium and those are our goal posts, and we wanted to take them down. We wanted to send our football team to their new home with the proper pomp and circumstance. Shame on those who did not allow this to happen. Shame on everyone who seems to forget what the point of a college football game is, what a college university is. You are supposed to be here for us, the students, not for your perfect public relations. So shame on you, and may you remember this next year when those stands in East Hartford are not filled with students.
I can certainly sympathize. L.A. Coliseum police and L.A.P.D. cops acted in a similarly revolting fashion last year when USC fans tried to rush the field after the Trojans’ historic 27-0 win over UCLA. (Although, in that case, students were actually beaten on the field. Then again, this is L.A.) Universities do not seem to understand that stopping students from having innocent fun is generally more trouble than it’s worth. It’s more likely that someone is going to get hurt by police — especially in a confrontation between drunk students and frustrated cops — than that someone is going to get hurt in a freak accident involving a goal post or a fellow student.
Undoubtedly, the primary motive behind universities’ overzealous “protection” of their students in these situations is the fear of liability if a student does get hurt by freak accident involving a goal post or whatever. (Liability, after all, is the motive for pretty much everything in our society. But that’s another commentary for another day.) But if something happens to a dumb student who parties too hard, that’s the student’s fault — whereas if police attack dozens or hundreds of students in an attempt to keep them “safe,” any injuries that occur are the university’s fault. For liability’s sake, universities should put up signs and make public-address announcements stating repeatedly and clearly that students are discouraged from rushing the field, and that anyone does so is proceeding at his or her own risk. And then they should leave the students alone… or at least refrain from beating and spraying them.
Here, by the way, is the Daily Campus’s news story about the incident…
Police pepper spray students
By Chris Gillon
Police used pepper spray to repel fans trying to the tear down the goalposts at the end of the UConn/Kent State football game Saturday. One student was arrested in the incident.
Police charged Kier Yerachmiel Kailas, 18, of Ballston Spa, N.Y., with interfering with an officer, 2nd-degree rioting and breach of peace. Kailas was processed and released.
Hundreds of students gathered near the sidelines in the final minutes of the game, which UConn won, 63-21. UConn and Connecticut State Police positioned officers in the four corners of the field, armed with pepper spray. At two corners, officers had two K-9 units to deter the crowd from approaching the goalposts.
With seconds to play, police moved to the areas behind the goalposts. The clock hit zero and fans began to take to the field cautiously. Police then moved into the end zones and established a line, which they told fans not to cross.
When fans attempted to rush the south goalpost, police discharged pepper spray to repel them.
Kailas ran to the goalpost from which he was removed by police and handcuffed. A press release states that Kailas attempted to incite the fans to cross a line the police had established for students not to cross. His bond was set at $2,500.
A separate press release issued by the police defends the decision to disallow the fans from taking down the goalposts.
“No historical concern for tradition at the university would outweigh the concern for such injury or death to any bystander who happened to be victim to such an accident,” the statement said.