Nowhere in America is the sport of college football taken more seriously than in the Deep South. Occasionally, the frenzied passion that is displayed in the stadium will spill out into the streets, and blood will be shed.
Granted, not just SEC schools are guilty of taking fan behavior to the extreme.
Sure, you will get some mass rioting in Columbus Ohio occasionally, and the boys from Blacksburg, Virginia will get wild and torch a couch or two in the streets; but over the last few years there have been several cases of disturbing violence involving SEC fans that have made attending a game or rooting for your team at the local bar seem like a dangerous proposal down South.
The annual meeting between the University of Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida Gators always takes place near the end of October, on a neutral field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Up until 2006, the game was known as “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party,” but both universities have recently shunned the moniker and encouraged network broadcasters and members of the media to do likewise. The reason, presumably, is an attempt to disassociate the game with copious amounts of alcohol use.
An alternate theory is that most folks don’t associate the terms “cocktail party” with “violent death.” Since 2004, three UF/UGA students have died while attending the affair and the festivities surrounding it, the most disturbing of these being the 2005 death of 23-year-old UF student Tom Brown.
Brown had become separated from his group of friends in the revelry after the game, and not long after became involved in an altercation with 5 young Florida residents, who proceeded to pin him to the ground and beat him to death.
In July of 2008, one of the men convicted of the crime, Jeremy Alan Lane, was denied a reduction of his 12 year sentence for aggravated battery. Tom Brown’s mother, pleaded with the judge to uphold the prison term.
“He beat my son literally to death, spit in his face, and left him...gurgling his own blood,” said Brown’s mother, Kathryn Norwood Brown, “as he ran away laughing with his friends.”
The rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers, some would say, is on the same level as the current “rivalry” between Israel and Hamas. No shortages of fisticuffs take place at the yearly contest known as “The Iron Bowl”. These two programs feel nothing but pure blood lust for one another, but things got really ugly the day before the game in 2005, and it would get even uglier before it was all said and done.
In the dark hours of the morning before the showdown on the gridiron, a 25 year old Alabama fan, a semi-pro mixed martial artist by the name of Joey Barrett Jr., stood outside a Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house party in Auburn screaming the phrase “Roll Tide!” Shortly afterward, things got physical.
Barrett stabbed a fraternity member at the scene. He then fled and was pursued by some of the other party goers. Another melee ensued, and Barrett stabbed four more victims, all of which eventually recovered from their wounds. Barrett was later arrested and charged with multiple counts, including aggravated assault.
Before Barrett’s trial could begin things took a strange turn.
In what can only be described as a completely deplorable act, the defendant Barrett attempted to bribe a mentally challenged man with the promise of a car to “confess” to the stabbings in court.
The plot unraveled quickly and Barrett was convicted not only of the assault charges, but of bribery as well. He will now have plenty of worthy opponents and time with which to hone his MMA skills behind the walls of an Alabama state prison.
The most recent act of shocking SEC violence happened in November of 2008, when the double homicide of two LSU fans rocked the small town of Evergreen, Alabama, playing out like a bloody scene from a Quentin Tarantino film.
Allegedly, two LSU fans; a couple named Dennis and Donna Smith, called the perpetrator; Alabama fan Michael Williams, via cell phone after the Tigers loss. After which, a bout of alcohol induced insults and taunting took place.
The couple, soon afterward, arrived at Williams’ home where he and Mr. Smith engaged in a fistfight in the front yard.
The LSU fan Smith then went to his truck and produced a pistol and made threatening statements. Williams then retrieved a shotgun from his home and fired two fatal blasts into Smith and his wife.
Michael Williams is now awaiting trial on two counts of murder due to an incident that began over the outcome of a college football game.
In spite of these incidents, college football fan violence is not limited by geographic location. (Who could forget the infamous Texas/Oklahoma scrotum rip of 2007?) Most SEC fans are really nice folks, not roving gangs of thugs out to wreak havoc on opposing fans. The thing with SEC fans is that they, along with their football programs, strive to be the best at what they do, be it football or bloodshed, respectively.
No, fans of SEC football have not yet degenerated into the US equivalent of European soccer hooligans, although if you are considering attending a game down here I would recommend throwing a can of mace or a pair of brass knuckles in with your standard tailgating supplies. Don't make any sudden movements, and try not to look them in the eye.