Commentary

Measuring the stadium nastiness

Trouble is, measuring the trouble isn't an exact science from game to game in football

Originally Published: November 13, 2009
By Paula Lavigne | ESPN

Dozens of college football fan blogs claim to know which school has the worst-behaved fans. Some of those blogs even rank schools in order of the egregiousness of their conduct. But one guy's run-in with a few drunken idiots does not equate to an actual measure of nastiness.

"Outside the Lines" tried to settle this argument once and for all with some cold, hard numbers. On game day, exactly how many fans are ejected from the stadium, issued tickets or arrested? It's a simple question with a not-so-simple answer, as we found by requesting that information from security officials at the nation's 15 largest college football stadiums.

Some colleges tally their troublemakers with the precision of accountants, but others simply have no idea. The applicable state and local laws vary from campus to campus. And what gets you a slap on the wrist in one stadium can get you thrown in jail in another. So comparisons are difficult.

Here are some examples of the responses we received:

21st-Century Crowd Control

This fall, Auburn became one of about three dozen schools to adopt text messaging as a way to report unruly behavior and other concerns discreetly. Officials are counting on the $10,000 system to catch problems they're missing -- as long as enough fans catch on and use it. Paula Lavigne examines the latest in stadium security on "Outside the Lines" at 9 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN.

And see these related stories:

OTL: Fans behaving badly
SportsNation: Fans tell their stories
Reilly: Don't take my tailgate away!

• Michigan officials provided a cross-tabulated breakdown of arrests, citations and ejections by game and type of incident (ticket scalping, assault, disorderly conduct, etc.) dating back to 2002. In 2008, they logged 109 citations, 117 ejections and 56 arrests, of which 38 were for underage drinking. About 40 percent of all incidents occurred at the Oct. 25 game against Michigan State.

• Penn State police, who provided bar charts in team colors with similar cross-tabulated figures, reported 397 incidents in 2008, 62 percent of which involved alcohol. That's more than double the estimated 177 incidents in 2006. In those three years, the highest one-day number -- 101 incidents -- came Oct. 27, 2007, at a game against Ohio State.

• At home, Ohio State averages fewer than five arrests per year and five ejections per game, police Chief Paul Denton says. He credits a combination of stepped-up enforcement of liquor laws and a good-sportsmanship campaign instituted in response to the Nov. 23, 2002, celebratory riots after the Michigan game that resulted in a torn-up field, torched cars and couches, flipped vehicles, and 70 arrests.

• Tennessee campus police officials reported only four arrests in 2008 and seven in 2007, and they're just starting to track ejections this year. Rival Florida, which has all its stats online, recorded 134 arrests in 2008 and 144 in 2007. Auburn tallied 13 arrests and 249 ejections in 2008.

• Georgia officials eject more than 300 people per game, but they make only about five arrests, mostly for drug-related activity.

• Alabama officials could provide no numbers whatsoever, saying they don't track incidents at the stadium on game days separate from overall campus crime statistics.

• Texas reports these figures: in 2008, 63 arrests, 248 ejections; in 2007, 75 arrests, 263 ejections; in 2006, 40 arrests, 316 ejections.

• For 2008, Oklahoma reported nine arrests and Texas A&M seven. Neither school had information on ejections.

• At Nebraska, in the 2008 season, officials denied admission to 21 people, ejected 88, cited four, took one to jail and sent 30 to an alcohol detox facility.

• Officials at Land Shark Stadium -- the private venue where Miami (a private college) plays -- won't release information on fan incidents. It was one of the first venues to adopt text messaging to report problems.

• At the Los Angeles Coliseum, where Southern California plays, the Los Angeles Police Department made 41 arrests all season in 2008. USC campus police, who patrol the 15,000 students, issue about 35 citations per game.

Paula Lavigne is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit and can be reached at paula.lavigne@espn.com. Her work appears on "Outside the Lines." "Outside the Lines" producer Lindsay Rovegno contributed to this report.