Videos by OutKick
Louisiana State University athletics is increasing its security for the gymnastics program after an incident involving fans of Olivia Dunne. The occurrence took place after the Tigers’ season-opening meet at Utah last weekend.
Dunne, who has an estimated NIL valuation of $2.7 million, is one of the biggest stars in college sports. The 20-year-old gymnast has more than 6.5 million followers on TikTok, and 2.5 million on Instagram.
Her incredible athleticism and larger-than-life brand has led to an unprecedented following for a female athlete and made her a household name. It has brought a lot of new eyes to a sport that the public might not see otherwise.
Olivia Dunne’s positive impact on the sport cannot be understated.
Her stardom led to an increase of ticket sales on the road last weekend. That is something that can rarely be said for many top college football quarterbacks, let alone other college athletes.
A large group of fans showed up at the Utes’ meet last weekend to cheer for the opposition and/or only because of Olivia Dunne. They showed up with signs and made themselves heard.
Dunne was very appreciative of her cheering section, even though she did not compete due to injury, and joined them near the floor after the competition had wrapped. No. 6 LSU lost to No. 3 Utah, but she was still gracious enough to take photos with the group and thank them for their support.
However, the behavior of the group of Dunne fans led to claims of disrespect from the mother of a gymnast at Utah, and others on the scene.
The incident was enough to cause concern from those around the program and the sport.
Olivia Dunne addressed her fans on social media and asked them to be respectful of gymnasts and the gymnastics community. Respect is the key.
LSU is increasing security measures as a result.
In response to last weekend’s meet, the Tigers are increasing security measures around the gymnastics program. Head coach Jay Clark credited the security team at Utah for how it handled the fans who gathered outside of the arena.
We had an officer with us, and they moved the bus as things got out of control. It was handled well by Utah. Probably 99 percent of the people there were seeking autographs, but you never know when you get a crowd like that. We’ll do the best we can to protect them. It’s at the forefront of my mind as a father and coach of these young women. We take very seriously the responsibility to keep them safe.— Jay Clark, via The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune
He also discussed how protocols will have to change moving forward. It is common for gymnasts to go into the stands after meets to greet their friends and family. That likely will have to change.
While in Salt Lake City, LSU had to relocate its bus so that gymnasts could avoid the crowd.
We just can’t expose them. We’re looking at some policy changes that will give parents access at a different location to their daughters.— Jay Clark, via The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune
In addition, to help protect its athletes, LSU Gymnastics will travel with a security officer to and from competitions for the remainder of the year.
That person will be in our hotel and outside our locker room and getting us to and from the bus at the venue. (The officer) will be there to create a perimeter that keeps everybody safe.— Jay Clark, via The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune
Other measures to increase security are being discussed within the program.
Jay Clark has had issues with fans in the past, but does not blame the athletes or Olivia Dunne.
Clark added that while he feels like proper security measures are largely in place at LSU, he has had issues in the past.
We’ve had a few issues, and I’ve had to run people off. There was one particular moment last year where we called LSU police to come down. Most instances are not nearly to that degree, but it does happen.— Jay Clark, via The New Orleans Advocate/Times-Picayune
Clark also acknowledged that the crowd at Utah caused a distraction at times and credited his team for how it dealt with the situation. He understands how social media and NIL have had a profound positive impact on the sport, but fears that it could cause problems with safety, and referenced Monica Seles, the former World No. 1 tennis player who was stabbed on the court.
We live in a world where you don’t know who’s going to get into that crowd. I remember Monica Seles signing autographs thinking she was doing something completely innocent, and a guy pulls out a knife. So, you don’t want to live in fear, but you’ve got to make sure we take precautions.— Jay Clark, via the Louisiana Radio Network
(Editor’s Note: Seles was stabbed during a changeover, mid-match, and not during an autograph signing.)
With that all being said, while security measures need re-evaluation, Clark does not blame the athletes. He is proud of his team, proud of who they are and proud of how they handle themselves.