Tactics to harass the opposing team’s quarterback took a more serious tone Saturday when University of Central Florida fans threatened the lives of USF quarterback Matt Grothe and his father, Matt Grothe Sr.
In the past, fans have “poked” Grothe on Facebook as a way of bothering him before football games, but during the week leading up to Saturday’s football game, Grothe Sr. received a threatening phone call from UCF fans and, over the course of the football game, the USF junior quarterback’s voicemail box filled with death threats and other hostile messages.
“It said ‘watch your back in the parking lot’ and used a lot of other words I won’t say,” Grothe Sr. said. “They also said, ‘we can’t get to your son but we can get to you,’ and told me they knew what I looked like so they’d be able to find me.”
USF Athletics responded by designating some of the Tampa Highway Patrol and University Police officers who normally travel with the team to watch over the Grothe family throughout the game, said Assistant Athletics Director for Communications Chris Freet. At first, Grothe Sr. said he didn’t take the threats seriously, but out of concern for the rest of his family, who were also attending the game, he gladly accepted USF’s offer to heighten security.
“Kids will be kids, but sometimes kids will be stupid,” he said.
UP sent six officers to Saturday’s game in Orlando, but that was at the request of UCF’s UP police chief, not because of the death threats. Typically, UP sends one officer to away games, but due to the intense rivalry between UCF and USF fans, UCF requested additional assistance, said Lt. Meg Ross.
Ross said she was unaware of any death threats and that the officers were there primarily to police USF’s student section.
Tampa police officers escorted the Grothes throughout the evening and no incidents occurred. During the game, however, UCF fans somehow got ahold of Matt Grothe Jr.’s phone number and proceeded to call him as well.
“I had about a thousand missed calls, and my voicemail was completely full and I had a couple of hundred text messages basically telling me to die,” he said.
Grothe has since changed his phone number.