The "Faurot Field 30"

Post date: Oct 28, 2010 8:20:16 PM

As some of you may have heard, the Missouri Tigers knocked off the #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners this past Saturday for Homecoming. As a result of this incredible victory over a team we had not beaten in over a decade, students rushed the field to celebrate. I was at the game and the atmosphere was crazy. Problem is, it is trespassing to leave the stands and enter the playing field -- which is detailed on the game tickets and announced at the end of the game. Because of this, every student that rushes the field is trespassing, which is misdemeanor.

Out of the thousands of students that ran onto the field after the game, only 30 were caught and arrested by the cops. Hence the title "Faurot Field 30." This week the student body and the parents of the accused students are in an uproar over this event. Everyone is crying foul and complaining about the selective enforcement of the trespassing law against only 30 students and letting the other thousands run amok on the field without recourse. I understand this must be frustrating. Just the other day a Missouri Senator weighed-in on this asking MU to drop the charges. Mizzou basically said that it was out of their hands and the cases had been turned over to the prosecutor's office and it was at their discretion. The University is essentially trying to steer clear of this fiasco and let the prosecutor make the decision. I can see how this situation is very difficult for MU to deal with -- do you prosecute your fans after the biggest victory in years, or do you let everyone run free on the field and have a good time? Problem is, there are consequences to both.

My personal take: I know what it is like to be a student and rush the field at a MU game. It is an amazing adrenaline rush and just a cool experience all by itself. But I never thought of what I did as a crime (other than having to dodge the cops as you sprint to the field). That being said, however, it is still against the law. The University of Missouri here has to walk a fine line between encouraging a good football atmosphere and avoiding legal liability. More specifically, they have to set a firm precedent that these types of offenses are going to be enforced. If they don't, well now anyone who rushes the field and gets injured/trampled will look to collect from the deep-pocketed university. (case in point: someone received a broken leg from field-rushing activities this past weekend). If Mizzou continues to warn students that what they are doing is illegal, and arrest a few of them for breaking the law, then when it comes time for litigation they are in better shape because they have covered their hide by telling students their conduct is prohibited, and backing up their statements. Think about it, if Mizzou really really wanted to keep all the students off of the field they could do better than this. They could have double or triple the amount of cops outfitted with riot gear, carrying batons and stun guns. Even if they don't use their weapons, I guarantee most, if not all, students would be heavily deterred from stepping foot on that field. But this is not want MU -- nor any other college for that matter -- wants for their football games. This is why they go with a few police officers and they arrest only a handful of unlucky students.

I really don't see any way around this. These kids are only being hit with a misdemeanor, which will likely get lowered to a disorderly conduct or something else similar when they get a lawyer. They will pay a fine or do community service and be done with it. I understand the "it's not fair, look at all the others not getting arrested" argument, but things aren't fair when you are dealing with a handfull of cops and thousands of unruly fans. Right now, it looks like the best hope for the accused is that the City of Columbia will drop the charges, which wouldn't interfere with MU's stance on enforcing trespassing against students who come onto the field. Having experience with the City of Columbia Prosecutor's Office, however, leads me to believe their chances of getting off scot-free is fairly slim.

All things considered, I don't think this is that big of a deal. Granted, I am not the one being charged with a crime, but in the end they broke the law and whatever punishment they are given will be nothing more than a hit on the wallet or a few hours of community service. I think the best thing to do here would be to amend all of the 30 cases to an infraction and then order them to do some community service. Everyone wins, including the community that is receiving the free service.

Note: I think it is particularly interesting that the cops actually stopped traffic on Stadium Boulevard after the game so the students carrying the torn down goalpost could cross the street safely (ummm...trespassing AND STEALING!). Now this would make me a little upset if I were one of the "Faurot Field 30".

Further reading: Kansas City Star article