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MIRAMAR BEACH, Florida- One of the hot-button topics during SEC meetings this week has centered around how to keep fans from rushing the field. What has been a traditional way to celebrate a monumental victory has now turned into a safety issue.
The problem for the SEC is actually finding a way to stop it from happening. No longer does the guy or girl in the yellow shirt prevent the tsunami of students from storming the field. Let’s be honest, if you were getting paid a low amount to ‘protect’ the field, are you going to stand in the way of thousands of students running towards you?
The answer is no, as it should be. There were multiple instances of problematic issues that arose from Tennessee and LSU fans storming the field. We witnessed Jermaine Burton of Alabama put his hands on a female fan, while things were heated at LSU on the field with certain Bama players postgame.
But the conversations about safety we are hearing now were not the same two seasons ago.
Following Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M at Kyle Field in 2021, Nick Saban was asked on the SEC teleconference that week about fans storming the field. Not only did Saban praise fans of the conference, he also mentioned that he never feels threatened thanks to his security.
“I think it’s great that we have tremendous passion in this league for all the teams,” Saban noted at the time. “The fans are excited and come to the games. They want to cheer their team on.
“I think what I think about most of the time is what could I have done better so that they’re not rushing the field. I never feel threatened. People are very respectful actually. We have very good police protection. I’m excited that people are excited and back to watching football.”
So what has changed?
Alabama AD Greg Byrne Ready For Further Punishment
There’s a reason why Alabama would be upset in this matter, after consecutive field-storming incidents. But what do you expect of the fans? The schools are paying a hefty fine of $250,000 for their third incident, so multiple SEC schools made a contribution to charity this year. Even Vanderbilt got in on the action after defeating Florida, with the mildest field storm ever.
But, it’s a cause for concern when it comes to player safety for Alabama AD Greg Byrne.
“Obviously that’s something that is really important to us as a university. We have dealt with it a lot over the years,” Greg Byrne mentioned. “Listen, I don’t wan to take anything away from what is a great environment in college sports, however there is a safety issue there. It has to be addressed at some level, fines don’t work. Nobody is sitting in the stands and saying ‘Well I’m not gonna storm the field today because the university is gonna get fined $250,000’. The fans don’t care, I get it.
“There has to be steps that are taken. I’ve been on the field for eight football seasons at Alabama and I’ve been on the field for a few storming, it’s not fun. It’s dangerous and we’ve had some scary situations that could’ve escalated even further.”
I get it, Alabama is upset about what went down in 2022, it happens. But to try and completely abolish fans from storming the the field after a monumental win is certainly taking away the college environment, something Byrne said he’s not trying to do.
Alabama has also been the part of seven different field-storming games over the past ten years.
Don’t Threaten To Take The Pageantry Away From College Football
If you think it’s in the best interest of college athletics to prevent fans from rushing the field, then the SEC has to step in. In the end, there are certain ways of further punishing schools, but let’s not act like this happens every year at each school.
What we saw in Knoxville this past year was one of the best college football atmospheres we’ve seen in a very long time. Does this mean Tennessee fans are going to storm the field every time they beat Alabama? No, they’ve already done it, so there’s no point now. What you saw at Tennessee was generations of fans letting out emotions that had been bubbling for sixteen years.
It seems that the only people complaining are from Alabama. You think Brian Kelly or Josh Heupel are going to call for a ban on rushing the field? The answer to that is no. Even though Heupel discussed how the schools and conference would have to navigate around potential rule changes or the ongoing fixtures, he doesn’t care.
Josh Heupel is worried about keeping college football attractive to the fans, and not becoming the mean old uncle who wants to rid of all the fun isn’t going to persuade folks to like you.
“The pageantry, passion that is college football is also what makes College Football,” Josh Heupel noted. “It’s a unique endeavor and the greatest sport in my opinion, so navigating that space is very important.”
Either way, let hope they don’t ruin some of the best moments of college football.