The electricity of a Badger victory over No. 1 ranked Ohio State reached its peak Saturday night when thousands of fans in the student section rushed the field at the University of Wisconsin’s Camp Randall Stadium.
Although police said the situation had the potential to be dangerous, most students left the stadium unscathed and ready to celebrate more.
UW Police Chief Susan Riseling said some fans in sections O, M and N had visible difficulties moving and, in some cases, breathing when fans from the upper levels of the sections compressed the lower levels.
“When you think about…everyone moving down on top of that, you get pushing and you get people pinned against the fence line,” Riseling said. “That’s exactly what happened [Saturday night].”
Riseling said the 80 percent of the stadium which could physically access the field did so by moving laterally toward the aisles rather than moving down using the bleachers as stairs.
Because of the significance of the matchup against Ohio State, Riseling said UWPD prepared a possible field breach following a Badger victory. She added UWPD typically has three plans in place for post-game celebration depending on the magnitude of the victory.
“When we win a game we weren’t necessarily expected to win, we know we’ll probably see some breach of the field…and we want to make sure no one gets seriously hurt,” Riseling said.
After the initial flood of fans stormed the field, several students climbed atop the north end zone’s goalpost, prompting additional police officers to block off the area and pull students from the post.
As students continued to pour onto the field, officers and event staff assisted fans attempting to climb over railings. Riseling said police offered assistance because there was no value to defending the field.
ESPN spokesperson Michael Humes said an ESPN camera was damaged in the post-game frenzy. He added the network is still investigating the extent of the damage to the camera.
Humes also said the sometimes damaging enthusiasm of the Madison crowd would not affect the possibility of ESPN returning to Madison for college games in the future.
With only one minor injury reported, the push to the field was a success compared to past moments in Camp Randall history, including 1993’s “Camp Randall Crush” in which dozens were severely injured after UW defeated the University of Michigan.
On that Halloween weekend, fans in the upper level of the student section descended on those in the lower section, who were unable to rush the field because of a closed gate.
Students who fell were stepped on, scratched and crushed as waves of people continued to fall on top of them, with two people suffering serious injuries.
Many criticized UWPD’s handling of the event, which was based on what Riseling at the time called “passive resistance.”
UW Athletics spokesperson Justin Doherty said Athletics discourages students from rushing the field for safety purposes, but considering the history at Camp Randall said things could have been worse.
“We want there to not be any injuries,” Doherty said. “Given what occurred [Saturday] night I think we’re thankful that there weren’t more injuries.”
The last time students stormed the field in celebration of a Badger football victory was in 2003. Ohio State lost to the Badgers that day, just as they did Saturday night.
Doherty said he has not heard of any damage done by fans to the field or its components, such as the north endzone goal post.