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USC Students Have to Make a Stand

Times Staff Writer

Twenty-five minutes before kickoff, USC security officers formed a line across the front of Gate 28 at the Coliseum and told a long line of waiting students: “No more seats.”

USC’s new student ticket policy got off to a rough start Saturday. The school sold 12,000 spirit cards -- which serve as admission for most USC home athletic events -- but reduced student seating this season from about 12,000 to a maximum of 8,000.

“The Trojans sold out,” said John Gillilan, a 21-year-old senior waiting to get in. "[President] Steven Sample sold our college experience to alumni with bigger pockets than us.”

But minutes later, USC officials scrambled to find empty seats and opened two grass areas at the corners of the east end zone for standing room only. By shortly after kickoff, the line had evaporated.

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An estimated 8,600 students were allowed to enter.

“We need to improve some things, no question,” said Steve Lopes, senior associate athletic director. “But overall, everyone got into the game and hopefully they’re happy about that.”

The first students had arrived early in the morning after watching ESPN’s “College GameDay,” which broadcast from the Coliseum. Three hours before kickoff the line snaked several hundred feet along the northeast side of the stadium.

By 2:45, a line that was three to four people wide near the front had mushroomed to eight to 10 wide as USC department of public safety officers distributed information cards advising students to “Arrive early!”

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As the game drew nearer, students began shouting “Give our seats back” and a security officer with a bullhorn pleaded: “No pushing in line.” A young man scaled the fence and was quickly handcuffed.

Dallas Woodburn, a sophomore from Ventura, left the line for fear of injury.

“It’s ridiculous, really dangerous,” Woodburn said as she watched other students try to squeeze through. “I hope something changes. I would rather watch on TV and be safe than get hurt.”

More university and Los Angeles Police Department officers were called to help control the crowd.

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The majority of students passed through the gates by a few minutes before the start of the game.

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gary.klein@latimes.com

david.wharton@latimes.com

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