CLEMSON — Clemson is beefing up security this football season in an effort to keep Death Valley safer, which means changes are coming for fans entering Memorial Stadium.
The use of metal detectors around the stadium began Saturday, when Clemson kicked off its season against Furman.
And the use of them will continue going forward, as the university announced it is implementing a walk-through metal detector pilot program in conjunction with the university's police department. Every week, select gates that will rotate throughout the season will have metal detectors for fans to walk through before they enter the stadium.
Other schools around the country also are requiring fans to pass through metal detectors, including University of Oklahoma, University of Kansas, Mississippi State University and Liberty University. The University of South Carolina is not using metal detectors, but does have a clear bag policy.
Close to Clemson, fans at last week's high school game between Daniel and Seneca had to go through metal detectors.
Clemson started checking bags about seven years ago. This is the next step, officials said.
"We've kind of been keeping our eyes on this for the last couple of years and certainly when you look across the landscape of athletics — professional and college — this is quickly becoming an industry standard. A best practice, if you will," said Jon Allen, Clemson associated athletic director for event operations.
"There are certainly a lot of schools, a lot of our counterpart schools that we see ourselves along the same sort of playing field as, that are doing some sort of similar measurements at their stadium."
The plan, Allen explained, is to set up the 40 metal detector units across three or four gates per game. Fans will be asked to remove cellphones, cameras, tablets, other electronics and keys from their stadium-approved clear bags and pockets, just as they would be instructed to do at the airport.
Fans are allowed to keep their shoes on, as well as keep their wallets, coins, jewels/watches and belts. Because fans will not know if their recommended gate is one of the metal detector gates, Clemson is encouraging all patrons to arrive at the stadium 20 to 25 minutes earlier.
With afternoon games in particular, when people have a tendency to trickle in at the last minute, Clemson is hopeful its fan base will follow the recommended guidelines and Allen is requesting that anyone who normally carries a pocket knife to either leave it in the car or at home. If fans come through the metal detectors with prohibited items, they have the option of returning it to their cars or having it confiscated at the gate. Clemson will not hold items at the gate for later pickup.
Though Clemson has said this is not necessarily a reactionary move to the country's current climate, the athletic department has dubbed it a "proactive" measure, and Allen said for the department "to have our head in the sand" would be "a disservice to our fans."
"We know what's out there," he said. "You don't have to look very far to see some terrible stuff in the news at large-scale public gatherings. We owe it to our fans to make the stadium as safe as possible."
Clemson will track data on entry time and how much longer the process takes as it continues to study how this will work.
"I think we're always looking at ways to help the fan experience," said Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich earlier this summer. "How do we make the experience inside the stadium better?"
Kickoff time for Saturday's game is 12:20 p.m.