Missouri beat Oklahoma, ranked No. 1 in the BCS, for the first time in 12 years Saturday night. Despite public announcements to stay off the field, thousands of fans poured out of the stands after the game to mob the players, jump up and down, and tear down the goal posts and carry them to a local watering hole.
The scene plays out in college football stadiums across the country every fall. It’s kind of silly and can be dangerous — one fan suffered a broken leg last Saturday night during the mass celebration on Faurot Field — but it’s part of the fabric of college football.
Missouri fans haven’t had many opportunities to celebrate like that. The Tigers, after all, are 7-0 for the first time since 1960. Big victories over Nebraska in 1978 and 2008 came on the road. Ditto for the Chase Daniel-fueled win against second-ranked Kansas three years ago that propelled the Tigers to their first Big 12 Conference championship game. When they last beat Oklahoma in 1998, the Sooners were a 5-6 outfit.
Besides, it was homecoming, and a record 18,000 fans showed up that morning for ESPN’s College GameDay program.
So what happens? Officers from the University of Missouri Police Department, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Boone County Sheriff’s Department arrested 30 people for trespassing. State Sen. Kurt Schaefer doesn’t fault police, but he wants the University of Missouri to drop prosecution for less ominous punishment, such as community service. The school’s administration says the matter is out of their hands, however.
“Man of these individuals arrested are students who will now have to face the task of looking for a job after graduation with a criminal record,” Schaefer said in a press release. “Perhaps we could look for a compromise given the excitement of the moment this event generated.
“We should, of course, use some restraint to keep anyone from getting hurt, and charges other than simple trespass should be handled accordingly. … We need to use some common sense without doing permanent harm to our students.”
Missouri Athletic Director Mike Alden was quoted in the Kansas City Star that the emotions building during the game made the scene inevitable, and that ” … you just let them come on (the field).”
Mary Jo Banken, director of the MU News Bureau, told the Tribune the cases have been turned over to prosecutors and it is up to them to make a decision about whether to proceed. She said the university’s policies are based on the need for safety for the fans and the players.
OK, we get that, but the nationally televised game was huge. These things don’t happen very often in Columbia, Mo. At least not since the days of Al Onofrio. That’s a lot of pent-up celebration.
“We feel like our plans, our policies are communicated very directly to the fans,” Banken told the Tribune. “For coming on to the field after a football game, onto the court after a basketball game or any athletic fields after a game, people will be arrested. Now, it is impossible for security personnel to control the overall actions of an entire group, but we will enforce our regulations as much as possible.”
Besides being a lawmaker, Schaefer is also a lawyer, so don’t be surprised if he offers his services to the unlucky 30 fans who were nabbed by police. Also don’t be surprised if the prosecutors in Boone County look back on those dark seasons of Woody Widenhofer and Bob Stull, decide a little mayhem is better than a 1-10 football team and amend the charges.
There are probably a few bigger cases to try.