I’ve been watching college football nearly my entire life and although I’m just on the cuff of turning 23 next week, I’ve seen my share of big upsets and victories…victories which led to the home team rushing the field to celebrate.
I’ve always seen rushing the field one of the many great traditions of college football. Unfortunately, the scene of thousands of fans, players and coaches on the field celebrating after a big win could become a less frequent scene in the SEC.
Many schools across the country already have collapsible goal post in both end zones. This came into play after a string of injuries over the last decade or so occurred across the nation when fans would storm the field and tear down the goal post after pulling a big upset or win.
Now, rushing the field at all could slowly be coming to a halt, at least in the SEC (Southeastern Conference). The Power-5 conference has been fining its schools for rushing the field or storming the court dating back to 2004.
But according to a new report released by ESPN’s Edward Aschoff Wednesday, the fine is going up, (and I mean way up) beginning this fall. The report states that the SEC plans to “substantially” increase the fines for teams that violate its on-field policy.
Previously, first time offender schools were forced to pay a $5,000 fine which was increased to $25,000 and $50,000 for second and third subsequent offenses. Discussions are still in the works, but all signs are currently pointing to the initial fine becoming a $50,000 offense under the new system.
Of the 14 league schools, only five (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State and Texas A&M) haven’t been fined since the initial rule took effect in 2004. The report from ESPN stated last season, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri and LSU were fined for rushing the field following victories.
“It’s an attempt to change behavior,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive said. “I think we have changed it considerably, but there are times when it happens and I think our folks thought that the current fine structure is not sufficiently large enough to be a quality deterrent,”
I’m not so sure the new system will work. Before moving to Dayton to take my current position at The Herald-News news back in February, I worked part-time for Event Partners, Incorporated; the event staffing/security staffing company for Clemson football and all other athletic and on-campus concert events.I can tell you first hand, there are only so many people you can have on their post and so much we can do when we are so highly outnumbered by fans.
We can tell people all day long, “hey, you can’t jump across that barrier and onto the field but when you have literally thousands of fans coming at you at once, what are you supposed to do?
I tell you what you do. You either move out of the way or get ran over by a stampede of intoxicated and excited fans ready to celebrate a big win on the field.
At Clemson it has even become a tradition to rush the field after EVERY game. That’s right. Win or lose, Tigers fans meet at the paw to face the band in the corner of the East endzone by the Hill to sing the alma mater together following each home game.
There has been a system put into place where you are technically only allowed to enter the field from the bottom of the hill or the opposite end of the field’s endzone. However, we all know everyone doesn’t follow the rules.
Furthermore, after a big win—especially a night game when fans have been “tasting” all day long—they end up coming from each and any direction, and there’s little you can do to stop them.
That being said, I fully understand the reasoning behind the system change; safety. It’s not ideal to have that many people running together in the same direction jumping over each other, etc after a game. People can trip, get knocked over and stampeded in a heartbeat.
Coming from someone who has rushed the court at Littlejohn and stormed the field in Death Valley multiple times after Clemson games, it’s like the running of the bulls. You have to commit to it and just hope and pray you don’t trip and fall.
I think LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva hit the nail on the head, “You can’t have armed guards and horses out there. I hope all the fans realize it is about safety and will comply. There’s only so much you can do, you can’t put up barbed wire or build a wall around the field,” he said.
While I do think the new system will help cut down on the frequency of storming the field or rushing the court in the SEC, I don’t think it will completely come to an end. It will probably take a year or two before we really see a difference or notice how the rule effects post-game celebrations.
Unlike my boys in Tigertown, I’m willing to bet most schools only have a legitimate reason to storm the field or court on average about once per season. Easy for me to say since it doesn’t come out of my pocket, but I think after knocking off a top 10 team or your rival at home, paying a $50,000 fine once a year might not be all that bad.