ECU Football Controversy: A Call for the End of a College Football Tradition

Jim NeveauAnalyst ISeptember 9, 2008

If you were watching college football on Saturday, you certainly saw the craziness that took place at East Carolina University. The Pirates upset the heavily favored Mountaineers of West Virginia, 24-3, in front of a packed house.

The win was quickly soured, however, by the actions of campus police and other law enforcement entities.

The school received complaints after the game from students who claimed to have been thrown to the ground and struck with batons by officers trying to keep them off the field. In fact, several of the attacks were caught on film.

Scott Shelton, the ECU campus police chief, issued a statement that read in part "there is no denying what you saw on film is sickening in nature," and then added that excessive force will not be tolerated, according to

This incident brings up a debate that is always lurking beneath the turbulent seas of college football: After a big upset win, do you allow fans to storm the field, or do you restrict them to the stands and make them take their party elsewhere?

Personally, I think that rushing the field is a tradition that needs to be allowed to die.

Major upsets are bound to happen in college football. For instance, if an unranked foe like Minnesota has just defeated Ohio State, the odds are that students will rush the field.

However, these displays are becoming much too commonplace, taking place after even modest upsets. They have become cliches, much like the hop-dance employed by MLB teams after walk-off victories.

In addition to the cliche that it has become, rushing the field can have more tangible consequences. Tearing down the goalposts is a tradition after an upset, but they are costly to replace.

In addition, if a bunch of knuckleheads decide that they want pieces of turf as souvenirs from the game, the whole field must be re-sod, a difficult undertaking on any timetable but an especially burdensome one when there's a game again next Saturday.

Besides the financial worries, there is the infinitely more urgent and pressing concern about people's safety. Humans are generally dumb beasts when they are in groups.

To quote Tommy Lee Jones from the film Men in Black, "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it."

With that being said, a mass of stampeding people are a danger not only to property but to themselves. This is a risk that cannot be overlooked, and is the ultimate reason for preventing students from celebrating on the field.

The crowd's intent after a big victory usually isn't malicious, as evidenced by a statement made by an ECU student.

"We just wanted to be on the field and celebrate what might have been the biggest win in school history," Drew Griffin, president of the student government of the school, told USA Today.

Even though they don't have ulterior motives, the sad reality is that in rushing masses of people, there are bound to be injuries, with some of them being serious.

You read often of soccer crowds in other countries becoming unruly and storming the field, trampling people in their wake. All it takes is for one student to die in the bum rush toward the field, and it would be one too many.

I hate to see college football venues become over-inundated with police presence, but I'd rather have more law enforcement officials than one dead student.