"Gathering At The Paw"
Let's face several facts about fans going onto the field after Clemson games. The first fact is that the end of the South Carolina game was a mess. The reason for the mess was because of the pent up frustration of previous home losses to N.C. State and Maryland. And that was on top of the usual euphoria that surrounds beating your archrival.
That state of ecstasy, however, is not in itself the entire cause of the mess that ensued on the Frank Howard Field. A bundled job of leadership, communication, and common sense by the security staff and police added fuel to the already steady fire that night.
The easy answer to that mess would be simply to not allow Clemson fans back onto the field, a tradition that is as old as Death Valley itself. The more difficult answer would be to try and reach a solution that ensures the safety of the fans and police in these rare times of overindulgent celebration.
That is exactly what Terry Don Phillips and his committee of university security, student affairs and athletics, as well as fans and students did in the new policy that takes place this year. The new policy, called the "Gathering At The Paw", will begin at the conclusion of home games when Tiger Band plays the Clemson Alma Mater. Coaches and players will gather at the tiger paw at the 50-yard line to meet with fans for autographs and photo sessions while the band performs. Event staff will be on hand to direct fans to designated field access areas near the east end zone.
Simply put, the compromise allows fans to gather on the field of play to interact with players and coaches. The compromise involves fans having to enter the field from a designated area on the East side of the stadium. By controlling the flow and direction of the folks coming onto the field, the new policy will allow opposing teams to exit Death Valley without scampering through throngs of Clemson fans. By having a specific activity such as the band playing the Alma Mater and autograph signing, fans will have a purpose to coming onto the field other than to tear down the goal posts.
Will this new policy solve all the problems and prevent all the injuries from happening with fans going onto the field? Probably not. But, it is a great step forward in protection and safety that still allows fans the unique tradition of going onto the field. Now, it is up to the fans and the security personnel to act sensibly to make the "Gathering At The Paw" a safe and fun activity.
Pass Outs Return!
Another Clemson tradition of allowing fans to exit Death Valley during the course of the game and return at a later time has been reinstated. The original tradition was stopped in the aftermath of 9/11 as a safety precaution. What Bobby Robinson was doing, sadly, is using the tragedy of 9/11 to have a reason to not allow the pass outs. It was never really a matter of security as much as an annoyance by those who did not understand the reasons for leaving the stadium and returning at a later time.
Again, let us stick to the facts about pass outs. First, there are a good number of folks that leave Death Valley to drink alcohol. And, there are plenty of folks who resent people leaving just to drink alcohol. Over the years, the inside of Death Valley has remained relatively alcohol free. There is, no doubt, alcohol being smuggled into the stadium. But, relative to most stadiums I have traveled to, the amount of alcohol smuggled in is much less. That can be attributed to fans being allowed to leave at halftime and drink a few beers or mix a drink. That ended after 9/11 and alcohol became a little more visible inside the stadium. The reinstatement of the pass out rule allows for drinkers to get their fix without doing so in the confines of the stadium where children are prevalent.
But, maybe an even bigger positive to the pass out rule is for families to have a reprieve. As a father of 2 young girls myself, I have found the lack of a pass out to be a big detriment to the game day experience at Clemson.
I want to bring my kids to Clemson to grow up living the Clemson experience much the same way that I did. But, asking a 5 year old to stay occupied inside Death Valley for 4 hours is unreasonable, and the pass out allows for a break for both child and parent. We even found ourselves buying up extra tickets before the game just to have a spare ticket to exit and then return. And, I was not alone in scarfing up the tickets before the game. While this may be good for people trying to dump a few tickets, it was not good for Clemson to have a few less fannies in the seats. Regardless of having to go through security a second time, the convenience of having the option to leave and return is a welcome policy with this family.
Terry Don…Blazing His Path
It is hard to argue against the fact that both of the above new policies for 2003 are a steady compromise that will benefit the majority of Clemson fans. Taken by themselves, they are worth of a solid pat on the back for a man that has only been directing the athletic department for about 365 days.
However, when you add to the above new policies the fact that Phillips has revamped the West End Zone project, initiated wearing orange on Fridays, hired Oliver Purnell, refocused the entire Clemson nation on the financial needs of IPTAY, and leading the athletic program when Clemson won the National Championship in golf; you get the feeling that Terry Don Phillips is doing an outstanding job at Clemson.
And to think that this is just the beginning...
Terry Don Phillips Strikes Gold
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