The University of Maryland has withdrawn the sale of 1,500 tickets for Saturday afternoon's football game with the University of Pittsburgh and hired 15 additional ushers in an effort to prevent a repeat of alcohol-related crowd control problems encountered last Saturday during the first night game ever played at Byrd Stadium.
Richard M. Dull, university athletic director, said the ticket withdrawal, which will cost the university $18,000, will eliminate the crowded conditions that he said contributed to last week's problems. It also will make more room for students, who are admitted to the games free by showing their university identification cards.
James Robinson, the university's environmental safety director, said yesterday that his staff responded to 12 medical incidents at the game--six of which required transporting people to hospitals by ambulance. Robinson said one fan was cut by glass; four--unconscious or semiconscious--were treated for extreme intoxication, and two fell from temporary bleachers. One of the fans who fell, David Hughes, 21, of 9262 Edmonston Rd., Greenbelt, remained hospitalized yesterday, in fair condition at Prince George's General Hospital with head injuries.
Robinson said he has attended Maryland football games for seven years and never encountered problems like those he found Saturday. He also said there were only two ambulances at the game and he had to call the Prince George's County Fire Department for additional vehicles.
The game, won by West Virginia University by a 31-21 score, was originally scheduled for 1:30 p.m. It was switched to an 8 p.m. kickoff after the two schools were offered $275,000 by the Turner Broadcasting Corp., for the right to televise the game. (Maryland must share part of its half with other schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference.) Temporary lights were extended over the stands from cranes attached to trucks.
"Part of the problem was the hype for the game," Dull said. "It was the first night game and people started partying earlier." Overcrowding in the student sections "just built up frustration," Dull said.
Byrd Stadium seats 50,000, but 54,715--the second biggest crowd ever at College Park--attended. Dull said yesterday that the crowd was too large until the stadium is renovated.
"I've decided standing room only is just not a good idea. I'll be happy with 50,000."
Dull said drinking fans reportedly threw bottles from the bleachers. There were numerous fights, and empty bottles littered the stands after the game.
"The problem is with a minority of people," Dull said. "Some people can handle liquor and some cannot."
Ushers did not attempt to confiscate liquor, which was being consumed openly by some in the crowd last Saturday, and Dull said Tuesday he was "not sure my people have the authority to take it away from them." But yesterday he said the 125 ushers who are to work the Pittsburgh game will be instructed to confiscate liquor, which is not permitted in Byrd Stadium, if fans will not voluntarily give it up.
"The conduct was just unbecoming to the people who come to see Maryland football games," Dull said. "The bottle throwing that endangered the safety of others is what bothered me most. We feel we have an obligation to ensure the safety of our fans."
No further night games are scheduled for Byrd Stadium and Dull said he will not schedule another one until he reviews the advantages and disadvantages. Another offer from a television network to play at night might hasten that review, he added.
Dull said Maryland administrators were told by their counterparts at schools that regularly play night games that they create problems--particularly with alcohol. Dull said he will discuss the pros and cons of night games with athletic directors at other universities.