By Lindsay Rabalais
If Tiger fans take their celebrations onto the field Saturday after the game against No. 4 Alabama, LSU will have to pick up a much heftier tab than they did after the Ole Miss game.
After the Tigers upset No. 3 Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium on Oct. 25, hordes of fans triumphantly swarmed the field.
LSU appeared to accept the inevitable. Police officers did not line the gates at the base of the student section as a preemptive strike against stampeding fans, not even after LSU safety Ronald Martin intercepted the ball with two seconds left in the game.
The Athletic Department also fully accepted the price tag of the celebration: a $5000 fine for violation of the SEC’s access to competition area policy.
Athletic Director Joe Alleva addressed the fine shortly after the Tigers’ triumphant victory. “I hope I have to spend it again two weeks from now,” he said.
Alleva quickly changed his tune, however. He released a statement on Oct. 28 instructing fans to not enter the field after the next football game against Alabama.
“I encourage everyone to celebrate great LSU victories within the seating areas of the stadium, and not on the field … We would never endorse the ‘storming of the field’ by our fans – it is a violation of the protocol established by the Southeastern Conference.”
The monetary cost of storming the field for the second time this season is almost certainly a major concern of Alleva’s.
The SEC fined LSU $5000 for its first infraction. The fine for a second violation would surge to $25,000. In the event of a third violation, the University would owe a $50,000 fine, according to a CBS Sports report.
LSU’s athletic budget is currently $109 million, according to a report from USA Today.
The $5000 fine for the post-Ole Miss game celebrations represented the first time LSU has been fined for storming the field. According to CBS Sports, the SEC’s policy against entering the competition area was enacted in 2004. The last time LSU fans rushed the field was in 2001, after LSU defeated Auburn in Tiger Stadium.
The potential cost of storming the field goes beyond the SEC fine.
It is certainly foreseeable that a fan could be seriously hurt in the rush to the field.
Furthermore, the University would face a host of liability issues if someone became injured, especially if the athletic director encouraged spectators to rush the field.
Rushing the field after a hard-fought victory is a storied component of LSU lore, from the fans who tore down both goal posts after LSU upset No. 1 Florida in 1997 to those who speckled the field in purple and gold on Oct. 25.
However, a $25,000 fine for rushing the field is unprecedented. The costs – monetary and emotional – of an injured fan would be even higher.
If the Tigers defeat Alabama on Saturday, the Athletic Department will almost certainly take steeper measures to ensure fans keep the festivities in the stands.