Pandemonium Hits The Student Gates At Williams-Brice: What Should The University Of South Carolina Do Now?

Saturday’s football game exceeded the expectations of many. South Carolina overcame many question marks on their roster as they defeated Eastern Illinois by a commanding score of 46-0.

Although the program has some issues to resolve on the field, the biggest affair that occurred Saturday took place off of the field at the student gate.

For those unaware, shortly before kickoff pandemonium struck the student gates. The overselling of student tickets and increased security measures created a bottleneck effect that resulted in a massive gathering of students at the entrance of the student section.

Students attempting to enter the game were pressed so tightly together at the entrance the event quickly reached hazardous proportions. Only realizing the severity of the situation after over 20 minutes of chaos, event staff and police officers shut and locked the tunnel entrance to the stadium so that no more students could enter the student section. Officers and event staff at this point instructed the large crowd of at least 500 to make their way back outside of the student gates.

Because of the size of crowd, students faced difficulty leaving the zone between the student section and the student gates. Officers then attempted to force students out of the student gates themselves by pushing and shoving the crowd. As a result, many students were sandwiched in between the police officers and students being forced backward and the rest of the crowd.

Consequently, several students either fainted, broke bones, or faced other injuries. One student recalled a young freshman passing out and was then trampled by students in front of her being shoved. After much of the crowd was pushed outside of the gate, the student gates were locked trapping several students inside. The students inside were then ordered to leave the area through different exits located around the student section. Injured students were compelled to seek medical attention by themselves as most of the police and event staff made no attempts to search for injured students.

The police officers throughout the event appeared to care vary little about individual safety, as they focused on completely clearing the area. After the area inside the gates was completely cleared, the student entrances were locked for the entirety of the game.

Here are just a few of the complaints from the disturbing events that took place Saturday:

The reason this event is so catastrophic for Gamecock athletics is because similar events have occurred in mass gatherings around the world that have proven to be deadly. On one occasion, in 1989, in South Yorkshire, England, the Hillsborough stadium faced overcrowding. Fans were crushed together, and the death toll reached 97 with 766 injuries. The only other recorded “stadium crush” recorded in college football occurred at the University of Wisconsin in 1993 at Camp Randall Stadium. A total of 73 fans were injured during this event. 

Although the event did not appear as dire as other similar instances, it could have been prevented had the proper precautions been taken. Had the proper administrators been on site, the event could have been dissolved or the student gates could have been shut before the event reached the severity that it did.

Entertainment and event managers are trained on how to prevent stadium stampedes and crushes before they occur. Based on the poor measures taken, it becomes apparent that proper operations officials were not present, despite the fact that extra precautions were to be taken upon entering the student section this season.

Second off, stadium ticketing must immediately fix the student ticketing process so that the student section never again faces the risk of overflow. Had the university not oversold student tickets Saturday, then the crowd outside of the student gate would have slowly diminished until all students outside of the gate were safely inside of the student section.

Finally, after discovering that the student section was nearly full, event staff should have opened other gates in the stadium for student entry. Fan attendance only reached 64,000 for Saturday’s game, leaving ample space in the upper deck sections. Students easily could have found seating in the east, west, or south upper deck had officials allowed them to do so. If this provision was taken, the crowd at the student gates could have dispersed in a safer manner.

Although the possibility of people without tickets finding their way inside of the stadium would have been a possibility if this procedure was taken, there comes a point where the university must value human life and safety over revenue. 

Currently, the student body is fighting for answers and assurance that similar events will never occur again. Many fans and faculty of the University still remain unaware that the affair even occurred.

The University released a poor apology almost 24 hours after on Sunday on twitter without taking responsibility for the events that occurred. The University of South Carolina must find a way to rectify its mistakes for Saturday’s incident or else it will suffer.

Parents of future student will become unwilling to send their children to South Carolina and students will become hesitant to attend games if they understand that similar events could happen again.

As a former student of the University, I believe and anticipate that the University will take the proper steps to assure that an event like this will never occur again. I wish University officials the best in correcting their mistakes from Saturday.

One thought on “Pandemonium Hits The Student Gates At Williams-Brice: What Should The University Of South Carolina Do Now?

  1. Cathy

    The students caught in the massive crowd were just plain lucky. This was a very dangerous condition where lives could have been lost. My granddaughter was one of them and she is a freshman. She was terrified and I wonder how she can ever feel safe being in the school.

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