Game-day security to ‘meet needs of people’

By Bill Schwingel

The presence of game-day security might not blend in well with blue skies, trees blowing in the wind and students enjoying football games, but to one NIU administrator, the mix makes for a perfect day of gridiron fun.

NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell said the most important goal of security at the football games is “how to best meet the needs of people at the event.”

No security problems came up at last week’s game against Cal State-Fullerton, said James Webster, who is in charge of football security.

Security last weekend consisted of 28 patrol officers and seven security guards from the university police force, and four officers from other area police departments, Webster said.

The number of security personnel varies, depending on holidays and availability of officers, he said.

Most of the behavior problems at the football games stem from people getting “slightly drunk,” Webster said, adding that many people felt the football game was just an “open-air tavern.”

When this atmosphere was taken away, people interested only in drinking no longer came to the football games, he said.

After a “riot” a couple years ago when students started throwing corn cobs and beer bottles, the university made changes in the alcohol policies at the football games, Webster said.

The changes prohibited any mass consumption of alcohol and outlawed kegs and bottles at the tailgate gatherings.

The picnic area, where people gather before the games, can no longer be used as a playing field for Frisbee or football because of the possibility of injuries to on-lookers, he said.

The athletic department said it was going to supply additional security to aid the university police and new private security services, said acting Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Henley.

The athletic department decided to hire a new security service because the department did not feel it was getting adequate service, O’Dell said. “It was time for a change.”

In previous years, a “peer group” from University Planning and Activities assisted the security guards at the games, but this group was used mainly in the designated tailgating areas, said O’Dell.

The peer group will not be continued this year because there is no designated tailgating area, he said.

“I would be extremely disappointed if individuals or groups of individuals were disruptive in any way of making a very positive environment,” O’Dell said.