School officials focus on crowd control; Garrett, North Charleston finish game without incident
It was a three-day timeout.
The unruly crowd that postponed the completion of a Friday night football game in North Charleston until Monday brought attention to crowd control and safety at high school athletic events.
Even though the incident turned out to not be much of a threat, school administrators took it seriously. Because, according to the High School League, it’s their responsibility.
Area school officials say they’d rather be safe than sorry. They want to have enough police protection on hand to handle volatile situations.
“The system worked,” said Dave Spurlock, who oversees athletics for the Charleston County School District. “Everybody did their job the way they were supposed to on Friday. The administrators, coaches and officials did the right thing to make sure there was no panic.”
On Monday night, the tension and drama centered on the action on the football field as Garrett Tech and North Charleston High School concluded the game.
The scene was much different Friday night as a portion of the crowd became unruly and reports of a gun surfaced. As a result, the game was stopped and the homecoming crowd at Garrett Tech was forced to leave. The game resumed Monday night without incident.
The reports of a gun were not true, North Charleston Police spokesman Spencer Pryor said.
“The people who instigated this did not attend Garrett Tech or North Charleston,” Pryor said. “There was no gun. There was no fight. There were no arrests. An assistant principal saw the crowd and overheard something that concerned her. That’s when they went to the Garrett Tech athletic director (Rick Burns) and advised him to postpone the game.”
A different game
About 75 fans showed up at Hibbie Ayoub Stadium on Monday to watch Garrett win a 28-26 thriller in double overtime.
Four uniformed North Charleston police officers were present.
During Friday’s game, a group of youths congregated near the concession stand and became boisterous and belligerent.
They did not respond to requests by Garrett Tech administrators to disperse. The North Charleston police were asked to step in and remove the youths from the stadium. The group continued to act up just outside the stadium.
More students left the stadium to see what the commotion was about and those students were not allowed to re-enter the stadium unless they purchased another ticket, causing more confusion and anger.
Spurlock said the unruly youths were playing a game called “Sharks and Minnows.” That’s where the group makes noise and acts like it is going to cause trouble. The group moves in unison from one spot to the next to avoid the police.
“It’s a fad,” Spurlcok said. “It’s happening all over the country. For lack of a better word, it’s a sport to them.”
The High School League’s constitution states that a school is responsible for providing ample police protection for all games.
The constitution states that if few spectators are expected and there is no reason to expect trouble, uniformed police are not required for sports other than football and basketball.
Four North Charleston police officers were at Monday’s game. But bigger schools with bigger crowds at athletic events will have a dozen or more uniformed police at a game. Schools also have administrators to help keep crowds under control.
“As an administrator, I would rather be safe than sorry. We’ll have anywhere from eight to 15 policemen,” said Ray Stackley, Stratford’s football coach and athletic director. “That’s something where you just don’t want to cut corners and take chances.
“We want to make it safe for the players and the fans. Police play a big role.”
Spurlock was at the old St. Andrew’s High School when an incident involving crowd control brought attention to his school.
He remembers what former High School League executive director Pete Ayoub told him.
“He said one policeman could be enough or that 100 might not be enough,” Spurlock said.
Bob Hayes is the athletics director at Wando. He said he meets with the school’s leaders and police to avoid incidents like last year’s fight that occurred during a basketball game against West Ashley.
Wando has a student entrance for basketball and football games.
“This gives our administrators a chance to see who is coming in,” Hayes said. “This gives them a chance to see if there is a potential problem.”