Police kicked out the entire student section late in the first half of its game against Memphis. The crowd on the left side of the end zone hill at Gerald J. Ford Stadium had become very large. The vast majority of students were not wearing masks, and social distancing wasn’t being followed.
Late in the first half, police officers went to the perimeter of the crowd and started instructing people to leave. The school said SMU PD kicked the students out, and there were also “Dallas Sheriff” uniforms on the offers. Police were working at the direction of SMU.
While many of the students left quickly, a large group stood at the top of the hill for a while, and the entire crowd was eventually gone by the start of the second half.
SMU Athletics explained what happened in a statement following the game.
“Following last week’s home game [on Sept. 26], SMU consulted with local government and health officials on our continued commitment to social distancing and masking to provide a healthy game day experience. Throughout the week, we sent several reminders of the critical importance of following safety measures while attending the game. We also increased staffing in the student section to provide direction, monitor policy compliance and provide support.
“During the game, some students began to gather and disregard these safety measures. They were asked to spread out and mask when in close contact. After numerous attempts by staff and security to get the students to comply with these safety requirements, it became necessary to clear the area. While some students did move to other areas in the stadium where they could watch in small groups at safe distances, many did leave.
“While no one at SMU wants to see fans leave, it is important to preserve our privilege to host games with fans in attendance during a pandemic. The health, safety and wellbeing of our fans and students is our highest priority and we must enforce safety requirements to the greatest extent possible and to operate as we have promised local officials. Our hope is that students will be able to return for our next home game and we will continue to work toward that goal.”
The issue of mask-wearing and social-distancing on the hill was an issue in SMU’s home opener a week ago. It was addressed in a Tuesday public statement by athletic director Rick Hart.
“The majority of fans in the stadium behaved responsibly and were socially-distanced and masked,” Hart wrote. “That said, we will be working to adjust the behavior of a small subsection of fans who did not follow our pledge to protect, which was sent to all ticketholders.”
Hart said there would be increased security in the student section for this game, and significantly increased security throughout the stadium.
SMU’s policy is that up to 1,000 students were permitted in the student section and on the lawn. It appeared that there were more than that in the stadium.
Additionally, SMU requires face coverings and at least a six-foot separation from other people.
By the end of the game, some of the families and children had spread out on the lawn. Kids had lined up along the wall separating the grass from the field.