RESPECT program works to ban unruly fans

RESPECT program

Lindsey Waggoner

RESPECT program

Cody Eding

Excessively rowdy crowds and drunken tailgaters may be a typical college football stereotype, but looking for such a scene at Grand Valley State University’s Lubbers Stadium is futile.

Such an atmosphere does not exist there – or at any other Laker sporting events – thanks to the GVSU’s participation in RESPECT, an NCAA program geared toward sportsmanship and providing a quality game environment for all fans.

GVSU’s participation in the game environment program started about four years ago, said Athletic Director Tim Selgo. The initiative focuses heavily on sportsmanship, which is one of the six defining attributes of Division II athletics.

“What we want is a place where folks can come see a highly competitive athletic contest in an environment that is family friendly, kid friendly and student friendly,” he said. “Therefore, we think a big part of that is sportsmanship.”

The RESPECT program is inclusive of both fans and athletes, but Selgo said it is mostly geared toward spectators. While students heavily attend GVSU athletic contests (especially football games), many non-students and families also watch the events from the stands.

When fans act out, they take away from the family atmosphere and reflect negatively on the university, said Capt. Brandon DeHaan, assistant director of the Department of Public Safety.

“The students that go to the home games are excited and have an expectation to win,” he said. “Engaging in negative behaviors – it does not show good sportsmanship and it does not reflect a winning tradition.”

Stopping inappropriate behaviors can be tough, especially in Lubbers Stadium where the capacity is often twice filled. DeHaan said it is often up to fans to police themselves.

Other measures, such as GVSU’s tailgating policy that places restrictions on alcohol consumption, help to ensure a family environment is present at football games. The tailgating rules were started almost a decade ago, and Selgo said similar policies have been implemented at Division I schools and in the NFL.

Under the current rules, alcohol consumption is only allowed in designated areas on campus, which are Lot A (VIP), Lot B, Lot C, Lot F, Lot G and the Irwin Club Lot adjacent to the stadium. Tailgating is allowed for the three hours prior to each game until kickoff and for no nore than one hour after the game.

No alcohol consumption is allowed during the game or halftime.

With the current measures in place, Selgo said there have been few incidents in past years. Most problems revolve around the use of foul language, he said.

“We get great support. Some of our goals are to keep it that way,” Selgo said. “We want to make sure that our students represent Grand Valley in a class manner for all opponents.”

Other incidents happen more infrequently. During the football playoff game against Carson-Newman last season, for example, fans threw snowballs onto the field at opposing players.

GVSU senior Kevin Norton said that while the policy promotes a family-friendly atmosphere, it also promotes the massive halftime exodus that occurs during most lopsided GVSU games.

“I think it encourages more people to go in and watch the games,” he said. “But I feel that with Grand Valley and their record of beating opponents by halftime, if they were allowed to go and party during the game, more people would stick around instead of bailing.”

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