North Texas Daily

UNT police system assesses sporting event security needs

UNT police system assesses sporting event security needs

UNT police system assesses sporting event security needs
February 27
00:35 2014

Ehsan Azad // Staff Writer

Sporting events at UNT can be a loud and intense environment where players, coaches and fans make decisions in the heat of the moment. Fortunately for everyone involved, the UNT police department ensures security at all sporting events.

This month, security concerns were raised with fans at college sporting events when Oklahoma State University basketball player Marcus Smart shoved Texas Tech University fan Jeff Orr after Smart claimed the fan had used a racial taunt against him Feb. 8 in Lubbock. The story spread nationally and has brought into question the behavior of fans and level of security.

Men’s basketball head coach Tony Benford is a close friend of Orr after playing for Texas Tech’s college basketball team from 1982 to 1986.

Benford said that was the first time in 23 years associated with college basketball coaching that he has seen a similar situation involving a fan, but believes the  Super Pit, or Coliseum, security works well in keeping everyone safe, and that no player should react that way.

“It was unfortunate that it happened, but you can’t do that no matter what the fan said,” Benford said. “As a coach, I got to make sure my players don’t cross that line.”

The Super Pit is one of the main venues that receives attention during sporting events. The police department coordinates with the athletic department and the staff members of the venues to put a security plan in place.

“It may be nothing more than a drive by or stop by a patrol officer, or all the way to when George Bush visited,” UNT Police Captain Jim Coffey said. “We coordinated with the secret service, had 20 additional officers and brought in a security company.”

Coffey said at the standard basketball game at the Coliseum, there are officers – some of which might be in plain clothes – stationed near the teams, officials, fans and entrance.

Depending on a certain criteria, a basketball game could have as many as seven officers on patrol. Coffey would not reveal the actual number because of security concerns.

The police department uses a five-level system to determine what security precautions will be needed for each event. Security assessment includes the size and importance of the event, as well as actual, credible chance of a threat.

“On the high school level, we might just have five or ten officers, a couple of gate guys and that’s it,” Coffey said. “As you move in to level three home games we have us, security companies, other police officers, checks on bag screening and other stuff that are involved with it.”

Coffey said once levels four and five are reached, UNT Police has to start planning for those games and will bring in the necessary extra security.  The Coliseum follows a similar security pattern, but is not as elaborate as the measures for Apogee Stadium. Sometimes, other police forces such as the Denton Police Department, Denton County Sheriff’s office and the Department of Public Safety will bring in some additional staff for football games.

“We can have up to 70 officers at a football game,” Coffey said.

The additional help is needed because Coffey can only bring around 20 to 30 of his own officers who are available. Some of the biggest events they have worked involved military schools coming to play and VIPs attending games, but the most complex would have been when former President George W. Bush visited, Coffey said.

There have been no major incidents at UNT with fans at the Coliseum, helped by the railing that surrounds the court and prevents the fans from entering the court, which is not allowed under any circumstance. Security is positioned around the railing and at the two entrances near the court to prevent fans from walking on.

To Coffey’s recollection, no incidents with fans and players have happened, but police has brought in extra security around teams and the officials when they deemed necessary.

“We consult with both athletics and the officials,” Coffey said. “Anytime there is a fan that is disruptive, we start at the lowest level to gain compliance and work our way up to removal from the event.”

The men’s basketball players haven’t had problems with fans or any concerns about the security in the places they play, including junior forward Colin Voss who said the thought of security never crosses his mind.

“No fans have ever crossed the line,” junior forward Colin Voss said. “Obviously fans are going to say things during games, but it’s just mostly in the spirit of the game.”

Senior guard Vertrail Vaughns hasn’t personally been involved in a situation like Marcus Smart has, but he has advice for people who do find themselves in that situation.

“Simple – just walk away,” Vaughns said. “I know there are a lot of emotions, but as a veteran player you can’t be in that situation.”

Currently, Coffey and his staff are working on next year’s security plans for the football season. They plan months in advance to make sure things are ready for when the season starts.

“We make adjustments throughout the season as need be,” Coffey said. “We are constantly reviewing our procedures and protocols.”


Bottom photo: graphic by Natalie Vosberg / Copy Assistant

Feature photo: UNT Police badge logo. Graphic courtesy of UNT Police Twitter page. 

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