COLUMBIA — The familiar jolt of electricity raced through the crowd as the clock ticked down to zero. Missouri quarterback Brad Smith took one final knee to seal the team’s second straight home win over Nebraska in 2005, and a vicious wave of black-and-gold came crashing onto Faurot Field.
As thousands of frenzied MU fans charged the north and south end zones, then-19-year-old Ryan Stoll waited in the bleachers, debating whether to join the unruly masses.
As he watched, he saw fans swinging like wild monkeys from the goal posts until the giant uprights came crashing down. The temptation was too much, the fervor too great. Stoll ran onto the field to join the looters, but he was abruptly halted before he could greet them.
A police officer arrested Stoll for first-degree trespassing, and his celebration was over. Most fans marched to Harpo’s and went home with a chunk of the goal post to remember the victory. Stoll was left with a $120 ticket.
“Everybody was in the place you wanted to be, and I was just standing there watching when he arrested me,” Stoll said. “It definitely took away the enjoyment of the game, the thrill of the victory. I was in a bad mood the rest of the day.”
Stoll, a student at Columbia College, was one of 21 fans who were arrested for trespassing after the Tigers defeated the Cornhuskers 41-24 two years ago. Nebraska returns to Columbia on Saturday for the first time since that game. Should MU win, fans will likely pour onto the field. And though they may break through the thin line of security, one thing’s for certain: they will not be tearing down the goal posts.
The same day that the Tigers beat Nebraska, goal posts were torn down at the University of Minnesota-Morris following the team’s double-overtime homecoming win. One student, 20-year-old Richard Rose, was hit by a falling goal post and died later that day,
The fear of the same thing happening in Columbia, combined with the increased instances of fans rushing the field in recent years, prompted Tad Dunn, assistant athletic director for game operations at MU, to spearhead a committee to improve post-game safety after the 2005 season.
After talking to universities all over the country, the group chose to get rid of the standard goal posts and replace them with collapsible ones that could be taken down within seconds after the game.
“We want our fans to enjoy a Tiger victory, especially a big victory,” Dunn said. “However, we’re here to provide a safe environment not only for our student athletes and our game officials, but also for our fans as well.”
In addition to the new goal posts, the MU Police Department typically employs 75 to 100 security officers for each game and coordinates with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the Columbia Police Department, student life and other groups to help maintain a safe environment.
MU police Capt. Brian Weimer said the staff is likely to increase for Saturday’s game and that it will be ready to detain and arrest individuals who rush from the stands.
“The goal is safety,” he said. “It’s to discourage inappropriate behavior that could lead to injury.”
Weimer acknowledged that if the Tigers win, it will be impossible to stop everyone who rushes onto the field. But for those who are detained, they’ll likely think twice next time.
“I will be in the stands this time around,” Stoll said. “And if I do rush again, I will definitely run with the crowd rather than wait behind and walk.”