Fighting, abusive behavior common at Georgia games

ATHENS, Ga. -- Abusive language, rowdy behavior and fighting have become all too common at Georgia football games -- and that's not even on the field.

Sports fans, with the help of a little alcohol, are a growing problem for school officials and local law enforcement, who have had to deal with everything from littering to riots.

"I've had calls for guys that were standing at the top of the stadium, in the 300- and 400-level seats, urinating over the top of the (seating area) to the gate at people entering the stadium," said UGA Police Chief Chuck Horton.

These sorts of shananigans don't happen at every game, but they do happen too often, he said. "I don't know that I'd bring a small child in there."

The University of Georgia Athletic Association and the Athens-Clarke County government have teamed up on a new Fan Behavior Committee, which will look at ways of changing fan behavior during home games.

The idea of the committee, which formed in October, came from an NCAA summit on fan behavior held last year in Dallas, said Matt Brachowski, UGA assistant athletic director for event management and a member of the panel. Georgia AD Vince Dooley chaired the meeting, which addressed the growing problem of unsportsmanlike behavior surrounding NCAA football games.

The committee is working to prevent a repeat of a 2000 incident when hundreds of Bulldog fans stormed the field after a win over the Tennessee, taking down a goal post and ripping up the famed Sanford Stadium hedges.

The group has met twice, and its discussions have focused on the development of a philosophy regarding what is appropriate fan behavior. When that's done, members said they want to disseminate information on how fans should behave.

With a fan base as large as UGA's, the committee is considering distributing letters to season ticketholders, student groups and others who attend Bulldogs sporting events, Brachowski said. The committee has also explored the possibility of airing radio public-service announcements from Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison and University of Georgia President Michael Adams.

"Right now we've just had some preliminary discussion of what we'd like to accomplish," Brachowski said. "Nothing has been set in stone."

Meanwhile, law enforcement personnel are trying to identify intoxicated fans and keep them out of the stadium, but often people don't show signs of being intoxicated until some time after they are inside the stadium, Horton said.

The county also is dealing with large amounts of trash along city and residential streets discarded by fans en route to the stadium.
Davison labels the game-day littering "a huge problem."

"I would never go to someone's community and trash it like that," she said.