Cutbacks reduce football security

By Michael W. McVey

Due to funding cutbacks, there will be fewer security officers patrolling Huskie football games this season.

According to baseball coach Joe “Spanky” McFarland, who was acting as the athletic department’s spokesman, there will not be as many officers providing security at football games as last season.

McFarland said this is largely due to the reduction in funding affecting the athletic department this year. Even though the athletic department appealed to the university for a fee increase to offset the reductions, the request was denied, forcing the athletic department to cut corners.

But University Police Captain James Webster said the security cutbacks should not be severe enough to cause a safety concern.

The UP will be assigning seven officers, instead of the 23 which worked the games last year, he said.

According to Webster, the UP had several meetings with the athletic department. “We gave them the most security we could for the money they had available.”

The security, according to McFarland, would be concentrated in the parking areas during tailgating.

However, Webster indicated the staff of the athletic department would be mostly responsible for patrolling the parking areas. The UPs, Webster said, would be positioned at the intersection of Lucinda Avenue and Annie Glidden Road. They also would be in the east tailgating area, since that is where most rowdy behavior has tended to occur.

McFarland mentioned when the alcohol ban is enforced during tailgating, there is usually not much trouble in the stands during the game.

Webster agreed, citing the fact that a stronger ban at Western Illinois University in Macomb has resulted in few security problems, while not adversely affecting attendance.

“People who want to see the games will come anyway. People who are looking for an excuse to get drunk will find someplace else to go,” Webster said.

McFarland suggested if fans abide by the restrictions on alcohol here at NIU, safety should not be a problem.

While neither McFarland nor Webster felt there was any reason for safety concerns due to the cutback, they both stressed security would be increased in response should there be problems.

McFarland stressed the long-term goal of the athletic department was to be self-sufficient, but not at the expense of jeopardizing student safety. One step toward this goal is the hiring of in-house security.

“The more we can keep in-house, the more money we can save. Our goal is to be self-sufficient eventually,” he said. “Should there be a problem, we will do whatever we have to keep the games safe.”

Additionally, should there be a restoration of funding, more UP could be hired to maintain the levels of security to which fans are accustomed.

“This is a completely new situation,” Webster said. “We can not say for sure how this season will go. If there still aren’t any problems, they might decide they don’t need so many police at the games. If there is trouble, or if the athletic department receives more funding, they may use additional officers.”

McFarland said, “This is an entertainment business, so it is important to do whatever is needed to keep the games safe. There will still be ushers to cover all the concessions, and some of our staff will be providing security, so there shouldn’t be any problems.

“If we have good attendance this year, as we expect, we’ll have the funds to hire more officers in future seasons.”