Broad Street is filled with crazed students looking for a place to celebrate. Several cars are overturned and ablaze. The rest are in traffic at a standstill. The lobby windows of the Liacouras Center are smashed as students and fans loot the arena. Chaos prevails, and Temple Police officers are left powerless.
This is the kind of riot that the University and Dean of Students Dr. Ainsley Carry want to avoid. In an effort to keep the campus safe following Super Bowl XXXIX between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, Carry e-mailed a letter to all students and members of the faculty and administration late Tuesday.
In the letter, Carry underlined past celebrations in other cities that got out of control. The letter was not meant to instill fear or send warning of punishment, Carry said. Rather, his aim in writing the letter was to instruct students to celebrate, but with caution.
Following recent championships in Boston and Detroit, students from nearby schools were either arrested or seriously injured as a result of rioting. Carry called this outbreak of violence “unnecessary.” While he said he does not foresee any civilian unrest after the Super Bowl, Carry said students should savor the moment, but in a safe setting.
“I wrote this letter because, as dean of students, I feel as though it is my duty to ensure safety among the students,” Carry said. “It’s not a letter that says, ‘We want to punish you.’ It is not that way at all.
“If the Eagles win, there are going to be some great celebrations in and around the city this weekend. While we want students to participate, we also want them to use their heads and be safe. In other cities, there have been celebrations where students have been seriously hurt. Safety is our No. 1 message in this letter.”
There will be increased security at all residence hall entrances during the game, and bag and ID checks will occur more frequently, Carry said. Additionally, no open containers – alcoholic or not – will be allowed into the residence halls Sunday. Carry also said resident assistants on every floor will be on watch for suspicious happenings.
Director of Campus Safety Carl Bittenbender said Carry’s message was exactly what the student body needed to hear. Bittenbender is a former Philadelphia police officer and was a sergeant during the Eagles’ last Super Bowl appearance in 1981. He knows the passion of Philadelphia sports fans, and said Carry’s letter should help keep criminal activity to a minimum.
“I’m hoping that on Monday morning we can look back at what the Eagles did without seeing any harm or crime that took place,” Bittenbender said. “It’ll be a credit to the kind of students that Temple has. I can’t say this campus is going to be incident-free, but [the letter] will help tremendously.”
Additionally, Temple police’s normal contingency of foot patrol officers “will be at least doubled” for Sunday’s game, Bittenbender said. He did not have any actual figures.
Temple is not alone in its crusade for safety. Northeastern University in Boston is also spreading the word on preventing riots. Seven of the University’s students were expelled, another seven were suspended and eight more were seriously injured after the Patriots won the Super Bowl last season, according to a statement released earlier this week by Northeastern’s Office for Student Affairs.
While Bittenbender said he does not anticipate Temple’s riots to be of the same degree as Northeastern’s, he expects the traditional aspects of fan support, more specifically streaking.
“Traditionally, people will take their clothes off when their team is in a championship game,” he said. “We’re going to hope that people keep their clothes on.”
Following the Boston Red Sox’ American League Championship Series win last fall, Victoria Snelgrove was killed after being shot by police with a pepper pellet outside of Fenway Park. The Associated Press reported that Snelgrove, a student at Emerson College in Boston, was an innocent bystander when she was fatally wounded at the festivities.
Sports psychologist and Temple professor Dr. Frank Farley has seen behavior similar to this before. While winning is beneficial to the city and the team’s fans, Farley said losing can have a equally damaging effect.
Cities with losing histories are more prone to violent outbursts during championship-level games, Farley said. As in the cases of the Red Sox and the Eagles, who both have suffered past playoff blunders, a team’s fan base has been known to take out its aggression, whether win or lose.
“I don’t think Philadelphia fans are much different than those [in New England],” said Farley, a former president of the American Psychological Association. “In some cities, you have a historical set of reactions, something triggered due to a historical setting. That’s what happened in Boston.
“Philadelphia has great fans and has stuck by the Eagles. They’ve been pretty well behaved for the most part, but anything can ignite poor behavior.”
Squabbles between athletes can stir up poor conduct, and not just among fans, Farley said. With less than a minute remaining in a Nov. 19, 2004, NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, members of the teams began fighting with one another. The brawl spilled into the seats, inciting more violence with fans.
With emotions running high among fans and non-fans alike, the Super Bowl holds the potential for disaster as well, Farley said. He suggested that a statement from a team spokesperson could help pacify potential incidents. Farley said Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb or head coach Andy Reid would be good candidates because of their celebrity status among fans.
“[The Eagles] have said they are trying to win for the fans,” Farley said. “McNabb and Reid have repeated this for a long time. It would be good if they could say things like … ‘Be on your best behavior,’ or ‘Celebrate or commiserate with us.'”
There will be several on-campus sites hosting Super Bowl XXXIX viewing parties on Sunday. One party will be held at the Owl Cove in Mitten Hall, where the game will be shown on a big-screen television. The event is sponsored by Student Activities and will feature free refreshments.
Carry said each of the residence halls will be hosting viewing parties in their lounges on the night of the game.
Temple students were of mixed emotions toward the University’s approach to preventing riots. Holly Benton, a junior nursing major from the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, will be watching the game from her boyfriend’s house. She predicts a situation similar to what followed the NFC Championship game; on Cottman and Frankford avenues in Northeast Philadelphia, several fans became unruly and police converged to break up the incident.
“It will probably be like that, but times 10 down here,” Benton said.
“I think [Temple] is going to need [the extra security]. If anything happened and they looked back on it, they’d say Temple didn’t step up security enough, so it would be bad either way.”
Senior accounting major Joe Rambone commended the University on preparing residence hall get-togethers. Rambone said the strong support for both teams among students could make for an ugly situation.
“Things will be out of hand. But if they win, I think it’ll be celebration as opposed to a riot,” Rambone said. “The parties that are set up in the lounge [in the residence halls] with people for the Patriots and people for the Eagles could start some [incidents]. Someone is bound to get out of hand.”
Christopher A. Vito can be reached at email@example.com. Temple News’ staff writer Nadia Stadnycki contributed to this report.