Football fans may wince at the FSU vs. USF noon kickoff time Saturday in Tallahassee, but the earlier game may reduce the number of arrests and ejections.
One reason is because of a decrease in the tailgating time before earlier games, meaning less time to consume alcohol, said Alexis Lambert, press secretary for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
The department houses the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), law enforcement officers who patrol tailgating areas at USF football games and focuses on underage drinking, Lambert said.
At USF’s last home football game against Charleston Southern, a 7 p.m. kickoff, ABT made 17 arrests for possession of alcohol under the age of 21. There were a total of 49 incidents – 35 arrests and 14 ejections, according to police reports.
Lambert said ABT patrolled the parking lots of Raymond James Stadium from 3:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the Charleston Southern game.
There were 34 incidents – 23 arrests and 11 ejections – at the USF vs. Syracuse game last year, which had a noon kickoff.
Though a record 12,000 fans are expected at this weekend’s game, the level of concern that there will be a lot of arrests or ejections is not high, said USF Executive Associate Athletic Director Bill McGillis.
McGillis said incidents can happen, but statistics show an earlier game could play a role in fan behavior.
An earlier game draws more families and children and is less “fight-oriented,” said FSU Police Major Jim Russell. Last year, the FSU vs. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga game at 3:30 p.m. had four arrests and 29 ejections.
The FSU vs. Wake Forest game at 7 p.m. last year had eight arrests and 38 ejections, according to police reports.
“When it’s a night (game) and add on a big rivalry,” said Russell, who has been with FSU police for 16 years, “(Police) think, ‘This is going to be a busy night.'”
McGillis said a lower number of incidents could stem from the fact that a rivalry doesn’t exist between USF and FSU.
“They haven’t played each other yet,” he said. “There hasn’t been an intensity like with UCF.”
If an individual is caught drinking under age, he or she is arrested and charged with a misdemeanor, which could mean jail time if the person does not cooperate with police, Russell said.
If the individual cooperates with authorities, he or she is given a “notice to appear” in court, Russell said. Lambert said ABT also issues “notices to appear” to those caught drinking at USF games.
A misdemeanor diversion program gives first-time offenders a second chance through completion of educational videos, community service and other repercussions for an offense, Russell said.
Many of those violations include fighting, which is mainly influenced by alcohol and other factors.
“The people who do that are probably already bringing baggage to the table,” Russell said.
He said many of those people are not FSU students and come to the games with the “wrong attitude.”
“Those are the people who are more aligned to seek out and look for conflict to begin with,” Russell said.
FSU fans can use a complaint call system to report “unruly” fans by dialing (850) 645-JERK. If authorities receive a call at a substation in the stadium, cameras zoom in on the “unruly” fan’s location and record the activity, Russell said.
USF fans can use a similar system at home games to report negative behavior. Attendees can text “RJS (space) issue and location” to 41513.
The complaint messages are received at a control room in Raymond James Stadium, then ushers and law enforcement officers are asked to report to the scene, McGillis said.
The Respect-a-BULL campaign will send out e-mails to students and faculty Thursday and Friday reminding everyone to “go green” and have good sportsmanship, McGillis said.
He said there is a “mutual interest” between USF and FSU to maintain a good atmosphere for everyone at the game.
“Both schools have really worked together,” McGillis said. “FSU has been great working out locations of tailgating and parking … super hospitable.”