The Daily Gamecock

‘It was absolute chaos’: Students stuck, injured in crowd at first football game

<p>The student gate entrance at Williams-Brice Stadium. The lack of adequate staff, organization and infrastructure at the gate before the game led to the formation of a large crowd, which resulted in students getting injured.</p>
The student gate entrance at Williams-Brice Stadium. The lack of adequate staff, organization and infrastructure at the gate before the game led to the formation of a large crowd, which resulted in students getting injured.

While many Gamecock fans were excited to be back in Williams-Brice Stadium for the first full-capacity football game in nearly two years, some students found themselves stuck and injured in what looked like a mosh pit outside of the student entrance.

The crowding caused several students to get injured, with some even ending up in the emergency room. 

“I was shoved and fell to the floor and hit my head and had people walk all over me," fourth-year psychology student Alexa Jensen said in a Twitter direct message to The Daily Gamecock.

Jensen woke up in the ER on a stretcher and spent over eight hours in the emergency room over a span of two days. She has no recollection of anything past waiting in the crowd.

Third-year public health student Mabry Choate said a police officer slammed a barricade on her foot, stood on it and only moved it off her foot after she screamed in pain.

“I was actually so scared. People were crying everywhere. I just wanted to go home after standing there for so long and being hurt so bad, but I couldn’t even get out,” Choate said over Twitter.

She said she couldn't get into the stadium for an hour and a half.

Fourth-year accounting student Jake Anderson, who runs the Barstool UofSC social media accounts, said he received hundreds of direct messages across the social media platforms of students' personal accounts of being stuck or injured in the crowd.

“I hope they realize the severity of it,” Anderson said. “I don’t know if they’re going to get all these accounts of all these hundreds of individuals — of students that I’ve personally talked to.”

Several students said they think understaffing and general lack of organization led to the large crowd forming outside of the gate 30 to 45 minutes before kickoff.

One student said there were no lines or dividers when they arrived, so there was no way to get into the game. 

"When it got to the point where my friends and I would’ve wanted to leave, there was no way out,” fourth-year psychology student Victoria Collins said over Twitter.

Another student said it was "absolute chaos."

Other student theories as to what caused the disarray at the student gate included student tickets being oversold. 

"I know when I eventually got through, the student section was completely full and people were standing in the aisles. There were no seats,” Anderson said.

Patrick Flynn, the communications and events director of Student Life, said in an email interview the same amount of lower deck tickets were administered for the Eastern Illinois game as throughout the last 15 years.

“While this was not a ticketing issue, we are working with all parties to improve gameday operations and ensure the safety of our students,” Flynn said.

In an effort to not upset students who did not scan their tickets due to the confusion, all students that had a ticket for Saturday night’s game will receive 2 reward points, whether or not their ticket was scanned, Flynn said in a statement.

Some students, such as Deanna Smith, a fourth-year psychology and public relations student, had no problem getting into the stadium.

We got to the gate at about 6:20 p.m., and there was a line, but it moved pretty quickly at that time,” Smith said. “They scanned our tickets, and then I don’t even think security patted us down.”

Second-year real estate student Wyatt Reichart said he could tell the event staff was overwhelmed. 

“Despite trying to be very polite, they were getting in kids' faces — getting physical with them,” Reichart said. 

Captain Eric Grabski, the spokesperson for USCPD, referred The Daily Gamecock to university spokesperson Jeff Stensland.

Stensland referred The Daily Gamecock to athletics director Ray Tanner, who said the athletics department is collaborating with Student Affairs, Student Government and USCPD.

"We are aware of the situation that occurred at the student gates prior to the start of Saturday’s game. We apologize to anyone who was impacted by the problem," Tanner said. "The safety of our students is our top priority, and we are committed to a great fan experience for everyone.”

Jeff Davis, the senior associate athletic director for Operations and Facilities, said in an email he was also aware of the events.

Editor's note: Written responses have been edited for grammar and clarity.