PROVO — Rowdy fans at Saturday’s game between Brigham Young University and the University of Utah could face criminal charges. Officials with the BYU Police Department said they’re reviewing footage of fans who threw trash at the referees as they left the field.
“You get a lot of emotion and people just become unreasonable,” said Lt. Arnold Lemmon of the BYU Police Department.
With a rivalry dubbed the Holy War, the police have come to expect their fair share of battle scars when the Utes face off with the Cougars. However, it was the post-game action that crossed the line for Lemmon and his fellow officers.
“We looked at it as a police department and said, ‘That’s not acceptable,’” he said. “It’s just not acceptable behavior. It is unsafe, and it is against the law.”
Upset by a call from the referees in the last play of the game, some BYU fans took their frustration out on the officials, throwing garbage at them as they left LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“People wanted to blame them for the outcome of the game,” Lemmon said. “They’re emotional and they like to throw things, and that’s not acceptable. We view it as a criminal act.”
Several years ago, the BYU Police Department developed a zero tolerance policy for fans who threw materials on the field. According to Lemmon, their stance helped reduce incidents similar to what occurred following Saturday’s game.
“We did everything we possibly could,” Lemmon said. “We took six officers and put them around those refs and we literally ran them into their locker room. Two of our officers were struck with objects.”
Currently, his department is reviewing surveillance footage from the stadium to try to identify those who threw anything at the officials.
“Our recommendation will be that they not attend another game this year,” Lemmon said.
At this point, authorities have identified a man who became confrontational with one of the referees, but it is unclear if any of the other fans captured on video are current BYU students.
“I think, like, we have a reputation of we need to be courteous all the time, even if we’re not happy with the refs. They’re just trying to do their jobs, I guess,” said Lily Oda, a freshman at BYU.
For students on campus, while the defeat was not easy, most left their disappointment on the field, Saturday.
“You’d hope that our school would support sportsmanship, but obviously some people, I guess, forget their morals and kind of get too into the game,” said sophomore, Sydney Wallace.