An unranked TCU football team will face a top 10 Oklahoma squad at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday. Could another potential upset Saturday be brewing as we speak as Lincoln Riley & Co roll into Fort Worth? Well, that’s the million dollar question.
It’s been four years since the Horned Frogs have faced the Sooners as the lower ranked opponent on home turf (yes, TCU was in fact the No. 21 team country while Oklahoma was briefly unranked when the teams last squared off at the Carter in 2016). That was a day that every loyal Frog fan remembers, as TCU knocked off the No. 4 Sooners behind a critical fourth quarter pick-six by linebacker Paul Dawson.
And perhaps the only sight that was more memorable than Dawson racing 41 yards into the clear? The field rush that ensued upon the game’s conclusion.
There’s been more than just a few instances of fans storming the field across the Big 12 Conference in the time since. It’s been done to the TCU twice, while Frog fans did it again the following season after a 28-21 overtime thriller against Baylor — much deserved, after the TCU student section braved the elements for more than five hours.
Only not everyone feels that way about fans joining players and coaches on the gridiron to celebrate a signature win.
Entering the second weekend of October, West Virginia stood tall as the last remaining undefeated power in the Big 12. That feat is now history after Iowa State — behind the continuing emergence of freshman quarterback Brock Purdy — pulled off a convincing 30-14 upset of the No. 6 Mountaineers. The effort that limited West Virginia’s high-flying offense to one touchdown on the night gave the Cyclones their third AP top 10 victory dating back to last October after winning three games total just two years ago.
Fitting that Cyclone nation would storm the field after the game to join the celebration — nearly one year after doing the exact same against No. 4 TCU — as “Sweet Caroline” blasted over the loudspeakers on a frigid evening in Ames — right? After years of misery, nobody could blame perhaps the most dedicated and underappreciated fan base in the Big 12 from making the most of what is truly a remarkable turnaround.
Don’t bother telling that to Dana Holgorsen. The eighth-year West Virginia head coach wasn’t amused in the slightest by the chaos that ensued once the game clock hit 00:00 — to which he voiced his frustration over during the Big 12 coaches teleconference on Monday.
“It was unprofessional. Our job is to keep student-athletes in a safe place....When you have thousands of people coming at you, it’s not good” — Dana Holgorsen
Well, if you’re hoping to see a “professional” version of fans storming the field, I’ve got some bad news for you: It doesn’t exist. These are college students, and not even top-notch security can prevents thousands of 20-something-year-olds from rushing down from the stands all at once to celebrate an emotional upset victory — much less a program that has long been starved of a winning culture.
Make no mistake — there are undoubtedly safety hazards to be had when it comes to stampedes such as the one seen in Ames under the lights last weekend. Fans can get trampled. Nothing can stop player-fan altercations — as we saw on the hardwood last winter when Texas Tech upset West Virginia in Lubbock. And as was the case between Holgorsen and Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell, postgame handshakes usually won’t be possible if the coaches don’t make it out to midfield quickly enough amid a rising sea of students.
Ultimately, the Big 12 listened to Holgorsen’s concerns, as the conference announced Tuesday that it would hit Iowa State with a $25,000 fine for the field storming incident. Iowa State announced it would appeal, though no updated verdict has been provided yet.
With the way the Big 12 has shaped up in 2018 thus far, there’s a decent chance that we could see more field rushes to come before the season ends. TCU this Saturday? Maybe. Oklahoma and/or Texas potentially stumbling in Lubbock next month? We’ve already seen that one before.
And if so, could we see the same action taken against the guilty parties? Who knows, but even hefty fines likely stop one of the greatest sights in the sport from continuing. After all, the SEC’s policy of a $100,000 fine for storming the field didn’t stop chaos from ensuing in Death Valley earlier on Saturday when LSU knocked off No. 2 Georgia in front of more 100,000 fans — even if many of them were there to support the Bulldogs rather than the Tigers.
Just a quarter of that amount? Good luck.
Yes, sights like these may be a security nightmare. The same can be said for those who are in charge of keeping real turf fields in pristine shape — something which Iowa State, LSU and TCU all have in common at the venues they call home.
But again, college football — rather college athletics as a whole — are built on tradition. Why not let students celebrate their fellow students’ endeavors right alongside them? This isn’t the NFL. These are kids. Is there really much to be mad about?
Bob Stoops didn’t complain when the Frogs did the improbable in October 2014. Patterson went about his business as usual — handshake and all — when Iowa State handed TCU the same fate last October as they did to West Virginia less than a week ago. Perhaps it’s time for Holgorsen to follow suit with some of his Big 12 coaching counterparts, past and present, and just let it go.
Certain occasions — magical occasions at that — only come around so often. We just saw a few of them all at once on Oct. 14. There could be another one — if not several — to come two days from now.
As it was once quoted — “Carpe diem.” Seize the day. No matter which party you may side with on the debate, don’t expect the tradition of storming the field to go away anytime soon. It’s often a mess, but a beautiful mess at that. And one that nobody should take for granted.