The University Park Campus will become a sea of cardinal and gold Saturday for USC’s Homecoming Game against Arizona State, with music blasting and the smell of barbecue. There will be a tangible feeling of excitement and school pride in the air, as nearly 10,000 Trojan fans will gather around to cheer on the football team.
“As a Trojan, game day is a time to celebrate the university we all love,” said Chris McCall, a junior majoring in business administration. “On game days, we have the chance to appreciate all that USC has given us and show our collective pride while enjoying an experience unique in the realm of college football. Football is the main act, but it would not be as impactful without the Trojan Family there to enjoy it.”
The large increase in the number of people in the area has the greatest impact on the Dept. of Public Safety, which is tasked with patrolling campus and ensuring all fans remain safe and obey the rules. Football games bring unique challenges for DPS by presenting issues that are different from what officers deal with on a typical day.
“We deal with tailgating issues such as controlling amplified sound and enforcing the university’s no drinking games policy,” said DPS Capt. David Carlisle. “Other typical game day issues include illegal food vendors selling on campus, the sales of unauthorized USC merchandise, and occasional ticket scalping. On a very warm day, we routinely receive medical calls which are typically a result of people becoming dehydrated.”
Students said they have seen these problems firsthand.
“For the Cal game, it was over 85 degrees and many people were still consuming copious amounts of alcohol,” McCall said. “I believe that actual crime is a minor problem as compared to the impacts on the health of students and fans.”
According to Carlisle, all DPS personnel are required to work during a home football game. Officers are assigned either a full shift on campus or a full shift at the Coliseum. As DPS is responsible for the safety of all of the students attending the game, their primary responsibility at the Coliseum is Gate 28, the student section entrance.
“There are seats for 12,000 students. DPS, along with private security, screen the students as they enter the Coliseum to make sure they abide by the rules of attending a game at that venue,” Carlisle said. “Typical violations at Gate 28 include public intoxication, using someone else’s ID, attempting to take alcohol into the Coliseum or cutting in line. Those students are cited into SJACS and ejected from the stadium.”
The home opener about Hawaii on Sept. 1 had the most student ejections from the game, which Carlisle attributed to the fact that it was the first home game of the season and many new students had yet to learn the importance of the rules of conduct for football games. There were 30 students ejected from that game, while the California and Colorado games each had 11 student ejections.
“The biggest concern is that there is basically unlimited access to alcohol on game days, and there are many young children present too,” said Michelle Nadjar, a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. “Even though adults are everywhere, sometimes they partake in the drinking more than the students and can’t serve as the best supervision for their kids.”
Although DPS is primarily responsible for activities occurring on-campus and students at the Coliseum, LAPD is responsible for the area surrounding campus and the general public attending the game.
“There is an Emergency Operations Center off campus which is activated on game days,” Carlisle said. “Representatives from multiple agencies including DPS, LAPD, L.A. Sheriff’s Department, L.A. Fire Department, USC Metro Line, LADOT and representatives from other agencies all work together in joint command to oversee all of the game day public safety issues from one central location.”
Carlisle said DPS has seen no change in the amount of crime that occurs on game days in recent years. The football team has played in front of a filled Coliseum almost every game this season, an increase from the last two years when the NCAA bowl ban was still in effect.
“I basically feel just as safe on game days as I do on normal days because there always seem to be tons of random people on campus,” said Mariah Robinson, a sophomore majoring in theatre. “It just gets a little more alarming on game days because there’s a mass majority of people who are probably intoxicated.”
Other students cited conflicts between fans as a primary concern.
“I feel slightly more unsafe when there is a home football game,” said Jackie Molina, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering. “Because of the competitive nature of USC football, fans from the opposing team get very riled up.”
Although game days are not known as high crime events, Carlisle said that fans could help DPS by taking steps to reduce the most common rule violations. This includes refraining from purchasing food or merchandise from illegal vendors, consuming alcohol wisely and hiding valuables that are locked in parked cars.
“In spite of thousands of fans and students tailgating on campus and at the Coliseum and the amount of celebrating that takes place, the fans are remarkably well behaved,” said Carlisle. “For the size of the crowd, we have very few serious problems, which speaks well of Trojan fans.”