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COL Team wins, fans riot

There's no excuse for violence at University of Minnesota

Riot if your team wins and, sometimes, riot if your team loses.

That seems to be a growing practice of college sports fans and it was illustrated last weekend when University of Minnesota students -- and others -- took to the streets to celebrate the Gopher hockey team's national collegiate championship. It was the first such victory for the University of Minnesota since 1979.

The game ended at 9:30 p.m. Saturday and crowds poured into the streets in and near Dinkytown in Minneapolis. The crowd swelled to an estimated 600 people and gradually turned violent. The mob stopped traffic, turned over trash bins and set fires in dumpsters. Some threw rocks and beer bottles at police.

Eventually, 100 Minneapolis police officers and 25 state and University of Minnesota police were on hand but didn't gain control of the scene until 5 a.m. Sunday. Six officers were hurt by thrown rocks or bottles, five squad cars were damaged and about 40 people were arrested.

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Critics said the university police had made no plans for such a disturbance and only about 11 officers were on hand at the start. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries and no businesses were destroyed, but that might have been due to good luck and energetic police work.

Police said the mood of the crowd turned ugly because too many of the participants had been drinking during the game. Excessive drinking also was a common factor in nine other similar incidents recorded in college towns since March 28. As reported in USA Today, some of the rioting occurred because the home team won and some because the home team lost an important game. In towns ranging from the home of the University of Maryland in College Park, Md., to Ames, Iowa, home of Iowa State University, crowds ranged from 5,000 to 10,000. Sixteen fires were started at one site and in two others a police officer and another victim expect to lose an eye after being hit by thrown objects.

Oliver J. Clark, chief of police for the University of Illinois and President of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, said universities have found no easy solution. He said, "I think the key is to find the way to remove the alcohol," but conceded there is no easy way to do that.

The University of Maine, whose team lost to the Gophers last weekend, did some planning that apparently had a good effect, according to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The university sponsored a rally immediately after the game with free food and a pep band. An estimated 800 people attended and there were no major incidents.

That idea might be tried by the University of Minnesota on the next appropriate occasion. Certainly, the university should make plans for controlling a riot the next time a Gopher team is playing for an important victory. However, something more is needed. University students themselves should address the problem.

The whole student body gets a black eye as a result of mob violence over something as trivial as a hockey game. Student government leaders should look for a way to anticipate such outbreaks and to offer some leadership in avoiding them.

For students fortunate enough to be attending a leading university there is no excuse for turning a celebration into a violent mob scene. If the student body supports a way to avoid such disturbances, it might have more effect than something sponsored by university administrators alone.

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