The Times West Virginian

October 10, 2012

WVU must use tough approach to stop post-game mobs and rioting

Times West Virginian

— We messed with Texas.

The stars (like Geno Smith and Andrew Buie) were big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.

WVU brought the “real” Austin with them to Texas.

And there are a whole lot of funny ways to describe West Virginia University’s win over the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night.

But the response of students to the first major Big 12 victory in downtown Morgantown in the early-morning hours of Sunday were anything but funny. Following the narrow victory, there were fires, mobs, property destruction, interference with emergency responders and law enforcement officials.

It isn’t celebrating. It is partying.

It isn’t a rite of passage for students of the No. 1 party school. It is a crime.

It isn’t good-spirited fun. It is dangerous, destructive and disappointing.

It isn’t something to be proud of. It’s an embarrassment to the institution, the city of Morgantown and West Virginia as a whole.

And it has to stop.

Dozens of fires, set in garbage cans and furniture dragged into streets, were bad enough. But when crews arrived on scene, they were met with aggressive crowds of up to 1,000 people who threw debris, rocks and even lit firecrackers at firefighters. Only five were arrested — four were WVU students and the administration has vowed swift justice up to and including expulsion in addition to the criminal charges they face.

“The worst of the post-game behavior Saturday night was completely unacceptable, dangerous and inexcusable,” WVU President Jim Clements said in a release. “We cannot and will not tolerate it. These actions are dangerous. And they diminish the successes of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.”

City and school officials are meeting this week to discuss how to handle other upcoming games, including the Oct. 20 matchup with Kansas State at Mountaineer Field. “Twice as much tear gas” is one of the suggestions made by law enforcement officials to local media.

Really? Has it come this far? Can college students not control themselves to keep celebrations positive? Has the mob mentality robbed these students of their senses? Will it take a house burning down somewhere outside of Sunnyside because crews are having to deal with violent crowds preventing them from doing their jobs? Will it take a serious injury to an emergency responder? Will it take someone sustaining serious injuries or dying during these “celebrations” before it stops?

Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla has suggested a $20-per-semester fee for each WVU student, collecting $1.2 million per year to hire extra city firefighters and police officers. There are two points we’d like to make. That’s like buying extra Band-Aids when a wound needs stitches. And there were about 1,000 students in Sunnyside on Saturday night — representing 3 percent of the student body of WVU. Is it really necessary to fiscally punish everyone to pay for the misbehavior of a few?

We think the hard-line approach from the university is the only thing that will stop these dangerous post-game mobs from causing any more damage to the city, its employees and the reputation of our state. When WVU students commit a crime, they need to face expulsion, jail time, fines, eviction from housing and loss of athletic privileges. That’s not “making an example” out of people. Those are realistic consequences when adults break the law.

And if these students see their friends, roommates and classmates lose scholarships, housing or the right to call themselves a WVU student, perhaps that will keep the ridiculous behavior in Sunnyside at bay.

We know exactly how thrilling this season is turning out for Mountaineer fans across the country. But as head coach Dana Holgorsen said, “If (Saturday’s incidents) had anything to do with some sort of ‘special’ win, then I would encourage everybody to get used to wins like that.”