Missouri just scored a touchdown to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. Thousands of MU fans in the stands leap to their feet, clapping and screaming, even though most are hoarse.
But an MU fan standing on the sidelines, a prime football-viewing location, remains motionless, expression serious, posture straight and tall. He is one of nearly 50 Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers called to the duty of football detail.
Although many of the troopers are huge MU football fans, their jobs require them to remain alert, calm and responsible throughout the games.
“Unfortunately, you don’t always get to see what everyone else is cheering about,” Sgt. Mike Cunningham said. “You can root for the team, but you can’t be jumping on the sideline like everyone else.”
The Highway Patrol has worked what is known as football detail since 1933, said Sgt. Scott Pauley, the assistant officer in charge of the detail.
The patrol’s Troop F, based in Jefferson City, supplies officers for the detail as do general headquarters in Jefferson City, Troop A in Kansas City, Troop B in Macon, Troop C in St. Louis and Troop I in Rolla.
Some troopers are assigned solely to duty inside the stadium. This inside detail includes crowd control and security – making sure no one brings in contraband items, for example. Others direct traffic outside the stadium before and after games but assist with crowd control on Faurot Field during games.
Directing traffic before and after games is the main responsibility of the troopers on football detail, Sgt. Scott Simmons said. He said the MU police officers are in charge inside the stadium but that the Highway Patrol is there to assist them with crowd control.
“You can’t pay attention to the game because there are so many people there and so many things to keep track of,” Simmons said
MU asked the patrol to assist with traffic because the MU Police Department did not have the workforce to do it alone, Pauley said.
“We handle the traffic outside the stadium, and they are responsible for it on the parking lots,” he said.
Sergeants from Troop F are in charge of the various posts, to which one to nine troopers are stationed, depending on how busy the particular intersection is.
While directing traffic, troopers follow a master plan to keep vehicles flowing and pedestrians moving. For example, for the first 20 minutes after a game ends, they block off traffic on Stadium between Providence and Mick Deaver Drive. This allows pedestrians to cross without the danger of getting hit.
“Our priority is pedestrian safety,” Pauley said. “Our second priority is to clear the lots out.”
He said pedestrians are usually cleared out by 20 minutes after a game, so by 30 minutes after a game, traffic can begin flowing in all directions again.
Although directing traffic near the stadium is a pretty straightforward task, fans pouring out of the stadium after games are not always agreeable or happy to follow instructions.
“Some people don’t like going the direction we need them to go,” Simmons said. “Some have consumed intoxicants. It doesn’t work out well.”
A day of football duty also means a long day on the job. Troopers report to the stadium three hours before kickoff and do not leave until one to two hours after the game ends, Pauley said. He said the extra hours are worth it for most.
“The people who volunteer for football detail are football fans,” Pauley said. “They enjoy the detail and enjoy seeing a little bit of the game. It’s a good assignment.”
Although the troopers take the responsibility seriously, they are sure to keep their love of the game in mind.
“We try to do our job, but internally, we can cheer,” Cunningham said.