Both football games drew crowds of more than 50,000. Both were home-team victories. Both took place in Raymond James Stadium last weekend.
But one of them had more than twice as many arrests and ejections from the venue.
Over the course of the Bulls’ win over the Kansas Jayhawks on Friday, the Tampa Sports Authority (TSA) reported that law enforcement officers had ejected and arrested 76 people. Two days later, during the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ game against the Atlanta Falcons, 37 people faced similar fates.
A number of factors figure into these arrest and ejection rates, TSA spokeswoman Barbara Casey said, but the most prominent factor is what she called “amateur drinking” — adolescents who overindulge before and during the game, resulting in wilder behavior.
“We’re dealing with a lot of people who are over-serving themselves before the game,” Casey said, adding that people tend to be a little rowdier during games that kick off the weekend, such as the Kansas game.
Battling binge drinking
Out of the 76 arrested or ejected from the USF game, 52 cases were reported as alcohol related — about 68 percent overall, Casey said. Comparatively, 14 — or roughly 38 percent — of the cases that occurred during the Buccaneers game involved alcohol.
The term “alcohol related” can have a variety of meanings, however. It could range from underage drinking to an inebriated person getting into a fight or spouting profanities and making a disturbance — essentially anything that harms others or seriously interferes with others’ ability to enjoy the game, said Tampa Police Sgt. Bill Todd.
To ensure a safe experience for Bulls fans, TSA enlists the help of multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Highway Patrol, University Police (UP) and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, which totals more than 200 deputies and officers.
During these games, an undisclosed number of undercover officers patrol the stadium and its parking lots, looking for underage drinking. Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco agents often work at the games as well.
Nine of these agents will also be on hand during Saturday’s game against Florida International University, along with 21 FIU police officers, said FIU Sgt. Douglas Ochipa. The stadium holds 17,000, but Ochipa said the average attendance hovers around 5,000 and last year FIU police averaged about 2-3 ejections per game and very few arrests.
A shared problem
Alcohol is also a factor at FIU and at Florida State University, but not for the same reasons as USF. Unlike Raymond James, their stadiums don’t allow alcohol, so the majority of FIU and FSU’s infractions involve people trying to smuggle in beer.
“If you’re caught bringing in alcohol or having it in the stands, you’re immediately ejected,” said FSU Police Department (FSUPD) Lt. Randy Chandler. “People being disorderly and intoxicated isn’t as big of an issue as trying to sneak in alcohol.”
During the Seminoles’ season opener against the University of West Carolina, 73,204 people attended — approximately 14,000 more than those in attendance at the Kansas game — resulting in 31 ejections and seven arrests.
Conversely, when USF played the University of Tennessee-Martin to kick off its season, the game saw two arrests and 13 ejections, Casey said.
These numbers are pretty normal for smaller teams, Chandler said. As the season progresses and FSU plays bigger rivals, he said he expects those numbers to increase.
Though Doak Campbell Stadium holds more people than Raymond James Stadium, tenser match-ups tend to draw more outbursts from fans, he said. At last year’s game against the University of Miami, for example, FSUPD had 60 ejections and arrests.
Another factor that could be indirectly attributed to some of Friday’s arrests and ejections was the elimination of wristbands in the student section. To get into the 100 level seating area, students used to have to wear a wristband, which would make them easily identifiable to ushers guarding the area’s entry.
This move was intended to eliminate the 10-20 minutes students spent waiting for a wristband, as well as the trip to the Sun Dome to pick it up, said Megan Latchford, student marketing head, in an interview before the Kansas game.
This tradeoff has come with its downsides, however, as students printed multiple copies of their tickets and employed other tactics to sneak friends into the 100 level, causing the end zone to fill up before some students with 100 level seats could get there, Casey said.
Junior Brian Rosegger spent part of his evening in the Orient Road Jail after getting into a dispute with an usher and a police officer over where he should sit. Rosegger had a 100 level ticket, but since the 100 level was already full he was instructed to go to the 200 level, where the usher denied him because he had a 100 level ticket, he said.
“I went back to the usher and I said, ‘Either you guys aren’t doing your job or USF is giving out too many tickets and I don’t think it’s the latter,'” he said. “He didn’t take too kindly to that.”
As the argument grew heated, Rosegger was arrested on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing or opposing an officer.
Should other students have similar seating problems, Casey recommends they use the stadium’s text messaging service, which can be reached at 813-277-6501, or call 813-350-6501 if they cannot receive text messages. Students must list their exact location so a stadium representative can meet with them and sort out the issue.
“How you handle the issue is a big factor in (whether you get arrested, ejected or left alone),” Casey said, adding that officers typically give guests a warning before taking action against them, unless the guests are fighting.
TSA and USF officials acknowledged that the system may need changing before the next home game against Pittsburgh in two weeks. TSA, the Tampa Police Department and USF Athletics will meet Friday and discuss what changes they can make to create a more enjoyable experience for those attending Bulls games.
“There is a consideration of bringing the wristbands back because some people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing and it’s making the game less enjoyable for others,” Casey said.