OU to release game-day do's and don'ts

Wednesday, August 30th 2006, 10:30 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Nearly a year after a University of Oklahoma student blew himself up outside a packed football game, fans headed for college football events across the state may face greater restrictions on what they're allowed to carry into stadiums, officials said Wednesday.

The University of Oklahoma will hold a news conference Thursday during which security staff will address game entry procedures and what items officials will permit those attending the games to bring inside.

Athletic department spokesman Kenny Mossman said the university reviews and revises security procedures routinely, but last year's explosion ``gave us an opportunity to review procedure and make a few additions.

``Nearly all of what you see is really more standard operating procedure than a reaction to a particular event.''

Joel Henry Hinrichs III died when an explosive device inside his backpack detonated as he sat on a campus bench some 173 yards away from Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, where about 84,000 people were watching the Kansas State-Oklahoma game on Oct. 1.

The FBI has said it's unsure whether Hinrichs, a 21-year-old engineering student from Colorado Springs, Colo., intentionally set off the bomb to commit suicide or if he also had intended to harm others and the bomb went off prematurely.

Even with the fatal bombing, Mossman said only minor tweaking was done to the game-entry rules. Backpacks, fanny packs and purses larger than 10 inches by 10 inches are banned, as are signs, coolers, ice chests, outside food and beverages, laser pointers and umbrellas.

The bombing incident influenced some procedure changes, officials said.

At Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, a bomb squad will be on site for each home game and security cameras are around the exterior of the stadium are monitored at police headquarters, OSU police chief Michael Robinson said.

``We have always used bomb dogs to do bomb sweeps of the stadium prior to opening it. We actually just started having a bomb squad on site after the incident at OU,'' Robinson said. ``We already realized that would be a beneficial thing, but other influential people got on board after that incident.''

Express Personnel Services employees contracted by the university screen fans and do spot checks of bags as people enter Boone Pickens Stadium, Robinson said.

``If they encounter something suspicious, they contact us and we would come over and intervene,'' Robinson said of OSU police officers, who are joined by Stillwater police and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers during home games.

No weapons, alcohol, outside food or beverages or umbrellas are allowed, but backpacks are OK, Robinson said.

``We talked about that but the athletic department decided not to disallow those this year,'' he said. ``They will also be subject to being checked just like any other item.''

At least one Division I school temporarily suspended its rule against outside beverages. The University of Kentucky allowed fans to bring in one unopened bottle of water to a home game last September when forecasts called for hot and humid weather.

Although the number of fans are much smaller than NCAA Division I schools like Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, officials at Division II Central Oklahoma and Southern Nazarene of the NAIA were aware of bombing incident's ramifications.

Jeff Harp, UCO's director of public safety, said officials have upgraded procedures in the past couple of years and ``certainly in response to what happened at OU last year.

Fans streaming into the 10,000-seat Wantland Stadium won't be allowed to carry ice chests, backpacks and alcoholic beverages, among other things, into Thursday night's game against Missouri Western, Harp said.

``I wouldn't say we will turn everything upside down, but we reserve the right to deny entry to anyone with a bag that is suspicious. If someone doesn't want their stuff searched, then don't bring it into the gate,'' said Harp, who added that more staffers will be working on home-game days than in previous years.

Harp said officials are more concerned about safety and security than how much it will cost to implement those policies, but he said the plan has to be reasonable.

``You can't put bomb dogs at every entrance like you would for a president for a football game, unless the president is coming to the game,'' he said.

Bobby Martin, athletic director for Southern Nazarene, said the Bethany campus sees an average of about 2,000 fans for Crimson Storm games and crowd-control issues are less of a problem than for Division I schools.

``We hire security officers from the Bethany Police Department. They're in uniform and ready to take on anything we need for them to,'' Martin said.

Athletic department staff also attend the games and help handle security issues, he said.

Fans are not allowed to bring in weapons, nor can they bring alcohol on the campus, Martin said. Handbags haven't been banned _ yet.

``The first game on Saturday, we'll keep a closer eye on things than we did last season to alleviate anything before it happens,'' Martin said. ``But there are situations that probably will be beyond anybody's control.''