Originally created 08/07/03

Clemson to limit access at field



CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson will reduce the number of fans on its famous hill and limit access to the field after games, the university said Wednesday.

Clemson, which opens its home season against Georgia Aug. 30, hopes to prevent the problems and injuries that occurred after the Tigers beat archrival South Carolina last November.

Documents from the school's Stadium Security Task Force, obtained by The Associated Press under the state's Freedom of Information Act, revealed more injuries than were detailed after the Nov. 23 game at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.

In part of a report dated March 17 from university vice president of student affairs Almeda Jacks to president James F. Barker and athletic director Terry Don Phillips, the task force lists a section called "Behavior Modification Campaign."

The proposal called for ads with graphic photos from the game "describing the injuries that no one has heard about - the student who needed three teeth repaired, the woman who underwent knee surgery, the fan whose arm was broken in six places, the student who was knocked unconscious, the woman who needs plastic surgery, the man whose heart stopped on the way to the hospital ... all because Clemson fans couldn't contain their glee over beating a 5-7 team."

University spokeswoman Cathy Sams the measure was not adopted. She said all the people who were injured were contacted by the university. Any claims made for medical bills would not be handled by Clemson, she said, but by the state's insurance program.

Sams said instead of ad campaigns, officials plan to contact student leaders and others to let them know the right way to celebrate. "We don't want to be preaching to them," she said. "We want to get the message across the right way."

Other plans for this season include stepped-up bike patrols in parking lots where tailgating occurs and enforcement of the university's alcohol policies, including the ban on kegs.

Clemson fans again will be allowed to leave the stadium at halftime and return, a practice halted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The task force report estimated reducing the crowd on the hill from 5,000 to no more than 3,000, which could mean a loss of $168,000. Students who receive free tickets and typically sit on the hill would move to the west end zone or upper deck.

The report said the increased security and additional police would cost $11,445 a game.

Also, a post-game celebration, "Gathering at the Paw," will start. The school's band will play the Clemson "Alma Mater" at the midfield tiger paw logo after games, win or lose. Security people will direct those who want to go on the field - a long-held tradition at Clemson - to the east end zone side. There, athletic director Terry Don Phillips said, fans and families can mingle safely with coaches and players.

"It's going to take a few games for people to get used to what we're doing," Phillips said. "But I think it's got the prospect of growing into a special tradition."

Clemson officials hope for something safer than the situation nine months ago. After Clemson defeated archrival South Carolina, 27-20, fans stormed the field trying to bring down the goalposts.

James "Homer" Booth, 68, a reserve deputy with the Anderson County Sheriff's Department, got caught beneath a pile. He suffered a broken collarbone and some broken ribs. He says a paramedic told him he spent about 35 seconds "in the dead zone" as they brought him to Anderson Area Medical Center that night. The other injury reported was a female Clemson student who had a mild concussion.

Sams says the school discovered more people hurt through letters, e-mails and contacts in the weeks following the game.

The task force report worried how Clemson might look after the additional injuries became known. "This may tarnish Clemson's image, which makes us uncomfortable," the report said. "However, if we are not candid, people are likely to think we are overreacting to a 'kids will be kids' situation, and might therefore dismiss our recommendations."

Anderson County Sheriff Gene Taylor said at the time if Clemson didn't take steps to reduce public drunkenness at games - which he believes led to the incident - his people would not participate in security. On Wednesday, Taylor said Clemson came to him, saying his agency was not needed at games this season.

The department usually sent about 50 people to games.

Sams said a communications problem with the Anderson County agency led to the split this year. She would not discuss how many security personnel are used at games. Clemson police Chief Gregory Harris "will make sure enough people are there," Sams said.

Taylor said his deputies were mostly baby sitters at games. He's still concerned about a repeat of last fall. "If one of my officers got hurt there, I would feel responsible," he said. "Now, if someone gets hurt, Clemson will be responsible."

Phillips thinks the new measures blend protection with Clemson's traditions and address "a huge national concern for safety, particularly when it comes to visiting coaches and team."