Fielding a celebration
Fans at Raymond James Stadium had their eye on the goal post since halftime Saturday night.
With the Bulls leading Bowling Green 23-7 after the first half, USF fans began to flock to the end zone. In the third quarter they began chanting “overrated,” and by the fourth their plan was unveiled as they yelled “goal post.”
USF’s 29-7 win gave fans an excuse to rush the field and celebrate with the team, but getting to take down the goal post wasn’t going to happen.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Officers and the Florida Highway Patrol were well aware of what fans were up to before they jumped from the stands onto the field.
At least 300 fans ran onto the field; some were able to get past officers, while others were wrestled to the ground or pushed by officials.
Because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a game the following day, Hillsborough County Sheriff Dep. Dave Burnay said officers’ main concern was to prevent fans from taking down the goal post.
“We were mainly just trying to save the goal post,” Burnay said.
Officers blocked fans in front of the goal post by pushing a few to the ground, but others were stopped when they jumped onto the field.
“In that situation we target the ones who look like they are in an attempt to get to the goal post,” Burnay said. “Those wanting to celebrate with the team weren’t a problem.”
Burnay said he was not sure whether any arrests were made to those stopped by officers.
However, some students were seen being handcuffed on the field by officers.
“It is possible they were just ejected from the stadium,” Burnay said.
Former USF student Terry Lucas said he was one of the first ones to jump over the fence at the end zone, and one of the officers stopped him and held his arm behind his back.
Lucas said the officer eventually let him go, but there were others, Lucas said, who he saw had handcuffs put on them. However, they were not arrested.
“They just walked them through the tunnel, let them go outside the stadium and said, ‘Have a nice day,'” Lucas said.
Lt. Harold Winsett, public information officer for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said he could not confirm whether there were any arrests made to those who rushed on the field at Saturday night’s game.
Winsett also said he is not sure how many officers were on the field for Saturday’s game, but said it was probably no more than usually attend home games.
Representatives from the Florida Highway Patrol and Raymond James Stadium could not be reached for comment.