Last weekend, No. 16 Washington State University defeated No. 5 USC 30-27 at home in Pullman, Washington. Naturally, the crazed Coug fans rushed the field.
The Pac-12 decided to fine WSU $25,000 for the field rushing. Both the SEC and Pac-12 fine schools up to $25,000 for the first offense, up to $50,000 for the second offense, and a third offense can cost a school as much as $100,000.
Why such heavy penalties? Back in the day, college students rushed the field to knock over goal posts when fired up. Surely, rushing the field is not that big of a deal. Well, video surfaced of a USC player leveling a WSU fan as he excitedly ran across the field. Police are now investigating the assault.
In 1983, Harvard undergraduate Meg Cimino was among the many fans who rushed the field after a victory over Yale. As the goalpost came down, it crushed Cimino, almost killing her and changing her life forever. She spent 19 years in physical therapy to regain her ability to walk, an activity which she was told she would never be able to do again.
Danger to the fans is the main reason the Pac-12 and SEC are discouraging field rushing. Many fans get injuries such as twists, sprains, and broken bones while jumping down onto the field or by getting run over or shoved around. And yet, the fans still rush despite the risks.
What can be done to prevent this? Some have suggested increased security. A nice idea in theory, but when faced with dozens of fans spilling over railings onto the field at a time, there is not much the novice security officers can do. Another thought was to increase fines, but this clearly does not resonate with the fans. Fines are typically incurred by the school or the athletic associations. The best option would be to educate college students on the risks associated field rushing, but even this may not convince them. College students will do what they want, no matter how stupid or hazardous.
There is no convincing manic football fans in the midst of a euphoric high to stay in their seats. Add the inebriation and immaturity to the mix and bad things are bound to happen. Until the Pac-12, SEC, or even the NCAA comes up with a better deterrent, field rushing is going to continue to be an intrinsic part of the game.