Originally created 11/27/02

Clemson sets up panel to study fans on field

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson has created a task force to find a way to blend tradition and safety after two people, including an Anderson County reserve sheriff's deputy, were hurt when fans rushed the field following the Tigers' victory over South Carolina Saturday night.

Clemson athletic director Terry Don Phillips says allowing just family and children to mingle with players - part of the long-standing practice to let all fans on the field after Death Valley games - in a controlled area is one option that might be used next season.

He said he was accurately quoted in The Greenville News saying others would be banned from the field. But he told The Associated Press on Tuesday that those people might be permitted on after a cooling off period.

"They forfeited that right based on what they did this past Saturday," Phillips said in the newspaper when asked about a fan ban.

But he said by phone that when he read his comments he found them offensive. "First of all, I want to apologize," he said. "Not all fans took part in that. It was too broad a brush to paint them all with."

Still, post-game security issues are real for college football.

Fan trouble erupted after last weekend's Michigan-Ohio State game in Columbus, Ohio; the Florida State-North Carolina State matchup in Raleigh, N.C., and the Cal-Stanford grudge match in Berkeley, Calif.

The Greenville News carried an editorial in Tuesday's editions headlined, "Put fans in check, Unrestrained revelry is dangerous to all."

Phillips says the group of fans at Death Valley weren't intending to injure anyone. "They were just trying to take the goalpost down," he said. "It was not malicious, but we've got to do everything we can to make sure no one gets hurt."

Anderson County reserve sheriff's deputy James "Homer" Booth, 67, had a broken collarbone, broken ribs and a heel mark on his right temple. He was taken to Anderson Area Medical Center. A female Clemson student was treated and released from Oconee Memorial Hospital with a mild concussion, according to the school.

Phillips worried about Clemson's tradition and its potential to get out of control early on. Fans at the Maryland-Clemson game on Nov. 16 were asked to stay off the field until players and coaches had left. However, Phillips and administrators relented for the 100th meeting between South Carolina and Clemson last week.

Phillips, who became athletic director in June, says his comments Monday about banning fans "were just stupid. They probably won't be the last stupid comments I make."

He says fans should know that he wants to work to save a unique tradition. "I don't know if we want them to get with the team just as soon as the horn blows," he said. "We want to try and preserve it. At the same time, when you have all these masses, it does create some safety issues."

The task force will have student representatives, school public safety officials and others. Any recommendations likely won't come before the spring and made clear to Clemson fans before the 2003 season begins next fall, Phillips said.

Anderson County Sheriff Gene Taylor had said his officers - typically about 50-to-60 show up on game days - won't help with security at Death Valley unless things change. His deputy is still sore and will likely be out of work for up to eight weeks.

Taylor said Booth got caught at the bottom of a pile as fans shook the goalpost in the east end zone. "Other officers were having to throw punches and kicks to get people off him," Taylor said.

Taylor has not heard from Clemson officials. "We've raised the issue. The school knows there's a safety problem," he said. "If somebody gets hurt in the future, the school may be held responsible, so they're going to have to do something."

Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said he spoke with the injured officer earlier Tuesday and said Booth sounded like he might go home soon.

Bowden left the security issue to Phillips and other university officials.

Phillips is confident the group will come up with solutions everyone can live with.

"We've got plenty of time to look at the issue and, whatever the ultimate plan, to have it ready," Phillips said.


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