MU, law enforcement prepared for massive crowd at football game

Monday, October 8, 2007 | 7:28 p.m. CDT; updated 9:12 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

COLUMBIA — Columbians driving near the MU campus Sunday morning were greeted by an unattractive sight: large piles of garbage strewn across the parking lots and ditches where pre-game tailgaters had camped out the day before, drinking, eating and prepping themselves for an MU football victory against Nebraska.

The game drew the largest home crowd in 23 years, but fans did not storm the field and tear down the goal posts after MU’s win as they did in 2005. In that incident, 20 people were arrested for trespassing. The athletics department formed a task force after the ordeal and installed collapsible goal posts to deter similar acts in the future.

Those precautions and a mass e-mail by MU coach Gary Pinkel to MU students on Wednesday before the game aimed to encourage fans to “enjoy the game safely and responsibly.” However, some game-related arrests were made.

Although all of the data hasn’t been tabulated, Capt. Brian Weimer of the MU Police Department said that as of Monday afternoon 17 or 18 arrests were on record from the game.

Police had a bold, if strongly outnumbered, presence Saturday. Officers from the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Boone County Sheriff’s Department, Columbia Police Department and MU Police Department worked at the event.

MU’s win has many football fans, devoted and fair-weather alike, worked up into a frenzy of team spirit, and this rallying enthusiasm could translate to even larger tailgating crowds when MU plays Texas Tech on Oct. 20.

But bigger crowds could mean even bigger piles of garbage, and possibly more arrests. The MU Police Department might need to bulk up on security at the upcoming event.

“We are constantly monitoring the situations before a game and make a plan accordingly,” Weimer said.

In the hours before Saturday night’s kickoff, those gold-and black-clad masses moved in a steady stream toward the stadium, trudging through ditches and medians as vehicular traffic slowed to a crawl.

“There are a lot of pedestrians in a somewhat crowded corridor,” Weimer said.

Aside from generating large amounts of litter, the crowds can pose a danger when drivers who have been drinking alcohol attempt to navigate the congested areas.

Weimer suggests that tailgaters avoid excessive alcohol consumption and establish designated drivers in anticipation of the excessive pedestrian traffic.

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