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Violent Victory
Rick Telander
November 08, 1993
Celebrating a rare victory over Michigan, Wisconsin students stormed the field, creating chaos and causing scores of injuries
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November 08, 1993

Violent Victory

Celebrating a rare victory over Michigan, Wisconsin students stormed the field, creating chaos and causing scores of injuries

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Indeed, there was so much hooliganism in the student section at Wisconsin games in the '80s—body-passing, drinking, slingshot-firing and the like—that the then director of university police, Ralph Hanson, set in motion a number of security changes. "When police routinely remove, on average, more than a hundred persons from the Stadium during each home game, something is obviously wrong," Hanson wrote in a report. Frisking spectators for hidden containers of alcoholic beverages, video-monitoring activity in the stands, and issuing summonses helped. So did continually lousy teams, which held down attendance. Alvarez's success in his four years as coach has changed that, and the Wisconsin dean of students, Mary Rouse, says what happened Saturday was unlike anything from the troubled '80s. "It was like a split second of dominoes," said Rouse, who attributed the chaos to exhilaration at the victory and pent-up tension.

One of those swept up in the surging masses on Saturday was Andrew Peissig, a coxswain on the freshman crew team. "There was absolutely nothing I could do," he said afterward. "I was moved down the stands. I'm only 5'6", 123 pounds, and sometimes my feet were off the ground. I was having trouble breathing, and then, down at the bottom, I started getting squished." Some of Peissig's crew buddies pulled him to safety, but he will never forget how he felt. "You couldn't hear anything, and then you'd hear someone screaming," he said. "It was terrible." Fortunately, by Monday no one remained in critical condition.

It was Parents Day at Wisconsin last Saturday, and some mothers and fathers looked across the field at the sea of churning students, in which, in some cases, their own offspring were being trampled. It was indirectly to those parents that Paul Wertheimer, a crowd-control consultant in Chicago, spoke when he told the Wisconsin State Journal that "the real issue here was the failure of fans, as individuals and a group, to understand what impact these actions would have." He added, "They understand it now."

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