Last weekend, USC’s Dept. of Public Safety reported an unprecedented eight transports due to alcohol intoxication or injuries that resulted from intoxication, four of those which took place on or near The Row on Oct. 10 when the Trojan’s held their first ever Thursday night football game.
Both Interfraternity Council President Ofek Lavian and DPS Deputy Chief David Carlisle noted that some of the incidents might be attributed to students tailgating on a Thursday night.
“People wonder what happened and what was so different about this gameday and I think a big part of that is that it was a Thursday game and campus was closed so people either had to tailgate right by the Coliseum or on The Row,” Lavian said.
Carlisle said the university had declared last Thursday an academic day and stipulated that there be no tailgating on campus or on The Row, but many students and alumni still made plans to tailgate at fraternity houses.
“I spoke with two recent graduates who were specifically going back to their fraternities to tailgate because they knew there was no tailgating on campus,” Carlisle said. “The fraternities had expressed to Ray Carlos [Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Leadership Development] their concern that they might be able to control their current members but there was no guarantee [about alumni]. It was a valid concern that was played out that Thursday night.”
Lavian said that the fraternities tried to anticipate the possible traffic and spent several weeks preparing for the Thursday game. They consulted with DPS Deputy Chief John Adams and attempted to block off The Row to limit the possibility of buses and vehicles from the University of Arizona parking on the street and holding their own tailgates. They also tried to make sure that all tailgates were kept indoors and some houses put up fences in an attempt to control the number of visitors.
“At a certain point things got out of hand when there was just too much traffic on The Row and a lot of people were spilling into these parties,” Lavian said. “These were students from all different schools. There were students from [UC] Berkeley and [University of] Arizona, just a very, very high volume [of people] that we were not prepared for.”
One of the transports reported on Oct. 10 was a medical transport called in after a female Loyola Marymount University student was seriously injured falling off a table at a party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
“We have tailgates such as that every gameday and there are never incidents to the level in both volume and scale that we experienced this past gameday,” Lavian said. “The Row experienced a volume much higher than we had a capacity for, and I think that that’s why the weekend resulted the way that it did.”
After speaking with student leaders, Adams said he speculates that because campus was closed to tailgaters, and students knew they could not consume alcohol on campus on their way to the game, they were binge drinking at their houses prior to departure.
“Whenever you are consuming large amounts of alcohol, it tends to go into your system in a different fashion and that can create a situation where you may have to go to the hospital more so than in other situations,” Adams said.
Adams worked for the UCLA Department of Public Safety until this year and said that because the Rose Bowl, UCLA’s football stadium, is located in Pasadena, students tend to drink small amounts in their fraternity or sorority houses and tailgate at the stadium. Adams said that most alcohol transports as a result of tailgating at UCLA are separate from campus and the responsibility of the Pasadena Fire and Rescue Department.
“There’s an increase in social activity but it’s very minor and you don’t really see it because you see students get on the buses and that’s it,” Adams said. “It’s not like there’s a lot of loud music, and we didn’t get a lot of noise complaints.”
Still, Carlisle said the essence of USC’s gameday practices is unlikely to change.
“USC has a decades-old tradition of tailgating on campus and walking to the Coliseum,” he said.
As a member of the Pac-12 conference, USC is required to host a Thursday night game twice every three years and Lavian said he anticipates there will be another Thursday night game next year. He urged the university and The Row to alter their practices to provide people with more options for tailgating.
“I don’t know if it’s worth it for us to tailgate if it’s a Thursday night game again and face those consequences,” Lavian said. “I know that on regular gamedays — if it’s a Saturday or Sunday game -— we can handle our normal volume responsibly, but when the university closes down campus and forces people — alumni and people from different schools — to either choose the Coliseum or The Row, it creates a very high-risk situation, and I don’t think we can handle it. As it stands, a repeat of this year next year would be atrocious.”
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