A funny thing happened when TCU fans ran on the field at Clemson – nothing.
No police, no security, not even campus police riding on ridiculous three-wheeled Segways stood in our way. The only thing resembling a warning was on the JumboTron, politely requesting we did not damage their athletic facilities.
If only we got this kind of treatment of home.
Last year, after the Frogs began to bang on the BCS door with a huge 32-7 home win over then-No. 9 BYU, our fans didn’t exactly receive the same welcome on our own field. Any fans who dared jump on the grass at Amon Carter Stadium were rewarded with a swift trip to the dirt, courtesy of the Fort Worth Police, only before having a knee placed in their back and their wrists twisted until they were deemed not to be a threat. After the first wave were cut down with Omaha Beach-like efficiency, everyone else decided there were better ways to spend a Thursday night.
It should have been on of the greatest memories of my college career, but I had to wait a year to get it in South Carolina. It shouldn’t take the kindness of away-game fans for TCU students to experience the unrivaled rush of celebrating with the student athletes on the field.
As the rain drowned away the ball of nervousness that a four-point win brings, it turned the fans to complete revelry. For a few minutes, the release of endorphins made everything a blur. It was loud, and wet, and purple and will live on as one of my favorite fuzzy memories. Only one game, the upset at Oklahoma in 2005, compares.
It truly felt epic. Even though there were only about 50 TCU fans on the field, all of South Carolina heard us Saturday. If they hadn’t already come up and introduced themselves, that is.
What really put Clemson over the top was their fans. As many have said in the days after the game, those fans were the nicest I’ve ever encountered, before, during and after the game. They were quick to offer a “good luck,” advice on where to tailgate, a cold beer or just a “Welcome to Clemson.” It was unreal, certainly not what I had been told to prepare for, and didn’t take away from the atmosphere inside. Letting us celebrate the win traditionally on the field was far from their first classy move, but certainly the biggest.
It’s a shame TCU won’t extend the same welcome to its students.
I understand the university’s motivations. I know the athletic department is concerned about the safety of players and coaches, injuries to fans, and, of course, the precious goalposts. But realistically, all of those concerns can be solved with the assistance of the same helpful law enforcement officers who introduced students to the turf last year.
Ross Bailey, associate director of athletics for operations, said the main concern he would have with allowing fans on the field would be the safety of opposing players and coaches. He said it would be too easy to have a situation like this year’s Oregon-Boise State punch, but with a fan.
Placing the usual row of police in front of the student section does work. So, keeping with that, the police would make sure the field was cleared of members of the opposing school and any coaches or players who stayed on for interviews had a police escort to the locker room. It would allow the athletic department to protect it’s priorities while making a decent compromise with the student body.
Fans are generally hurt in two ways when rushing the field gets out of hand, but both are pretty easy to remedy as well.
First, move an officer next to the goalposts. While it does look like a lot of fun to climb up and try to tear them down, it’s a surefire way to get someone hurt, and they are a sizable financial investment. I don’t want to see TCU fans tear up our home stadium; I want them to see them having fun with the team.
The other way people could be at risk is from the flood of fans stampeding on the field. Making students move to the endzones to climb on to the field will let officers control the flow of fans as well as keep the drop significantly lower than right in front of the student section.
When TCU e-mails out a friendly reminder that our fans get compliments within the conference, and we should keep it that way, they show faith in our students. As long as students continue to behave (mostly) like good, albeit rowdy football fans, the university should reward them.
This year, Utah will come to play in Fort Worth on Nov. 14. If we continue to play like we did against Clemson, we ought to be looking at that game as our final major BCS-worthiness litmus test.
We’ll see if our team is worthy of being treated like one of the big boys that night. Our fans should be tested as well. Give us a chance to celebrate like the big boys.
The students deserve a chance to make memories out there, too.