Mizzou won't seek charges against fans

Updated: October 28, 2010, 6:46 PM ET
Associated Press

COLUMBIA, MO. -- The University of Missouri says it won't seek charges against 30 fans who were arrested for rushing onto the football field after Saturday's big win over Oklahoma.

The 30 people were among thousands who stormed Faurot Field.

Columbia campus chancellor Brady Deaton said in a statement Thursday that the game presented officials with "unique circumstances." Deaton didn't elaborate, but went on to say that after careful review the university decided not to forward the trespassing summonses to the city prosecutor.

Some of those arrested, a student group and a lawmaker criticized the arrests after the university offered pictures of the celebration for sale and posted photos online.

Those questioning the trespassing arrests during Missouri's collective euphoria about Saturday's victory over the Sooners -- then the nation's top-ranked team -- wanted an explanation from the university.

"I don't think it's fair," Christopher Deem, a 20-year-old sophomore business student who was among the arrested, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "If they're going to let 30,000 people rush the field, they shouldn't arrest 30. If they're going to try and be all politically correct by arresting people and say it's for safety, I don't think they should be selling photos of it."

"My view of the situation is complete and total outrage," his mother, Bonnie Deem of St. Charles, told The Kansas City Star.

The university this week began advertising photos of the mad rush onto Faurot Field for up to $290, even sending e-mails to students that advertised the on-field fan shots, among other photos. By Wednesday, the photos were removed from the university's website.

University spokeswoman Mary Jo Banken did not immediately respond to messages left Thursday.

School officials have insisted that swarming onto the field carried serious safety risks, and that fans had ample warning that arrests may happen. The university's police chief, Jack Watring, said one fan sustained a broken leg and several others cut their hands while tearing down the goal posts -- at least one of them carried out of the stadium.

"It's a safety thing," Watring said. "I can tell you one thing: Those 30 were safe after they were arrested."

Watring said only 30 people were arrested because that's the only number that could have been with the number of officers the department had on the field. The department's policy calls for at least two officers involved with each on-field arrest.

Tim Noce, a business major who heads the undergraduate student-government organization on campus said the Missouri Students Association wants more details and a meeting with university officials.

"We've got to make sure no one's being scapegoated here, and that the university is not making a profit here at the expense of students," Noce said.

A Republican state lawmaker whose district includes Columbia has suggested that what he called the "selective prosecution" should end with the trespassing charges being dropped if those arrested agreed to community service.

"Many 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," added State Sen. Kurt Schaefer.

First-degree trespassing is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine.

The controversy is deja vu for William Mathis, who snapped a picture seven years ago while Missouri fans wildly celebrated after a victory over Nebraska became a poster called "Victory." After the celebration -- which produced more than 70 arrests -- the university signed off on licensing its logo to be used on the poster and it flew off the university bookstore's shelves.

Still, the university criticized students for rushing the field and tearing down the goal posts -- actions the school at the time called dangerous and not a good reflection of the university.

The bookstore later stopped selling Mathis' poster, and the university sent him a cease-and-desist letter that barred him from selling it himself. Mathis ignored the letter, even selling thousands of posters at a discount to a nonprofit group.

"The university made me a lot of money," Mathis recalled.

Now, he's surprised the university finds itself in more flap about an on-field celebration.

"You would think they would learn from history," Mathis said.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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