- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Prince George's County and University of Maryland police are not worried that the swarms of students who set fires in College Park and defied authorities after big sports games will again descend on Fraternity Row after the Orange Bowl game tomorrow.

Nobody will be there to start a riot. Out-of-state students are home for the holidays, and the campus dormitories are closed, leaving the campus deserted for the most part, until classes resume Jan. 28.

The Orange Bowl, in which Maryland will play the University of Florida in Miami, kicks off at 8 p.m. Only one unit of eight to 10 officers will be on duty at the intersection of Knox Road and Route 1, where several bars are located just off campus, said Prince George's County Police spokesman Capt. Andrew Ellis.

If the game were being played while students were on campus, the situation would be different, said Prince George's County Police Capt. Mark Magaw, assistant commander of the Hyattsville station.

Capt. Magaw said he thinks the University of Maryland has seen the last of the post-game melees. The celebrations are becoming safer because of a zero-tolerance policy adopted by police, he said.

Things turned ugly several times in the past year at the University of Maryland, starting with a brawl that broke out after the men's basketball team's upset of Duke in February.

The most serious trouble came after the basketball team lost to Duke in the Final Four in April.

Many students called what happened a riot, although university President Dan Mote and Capt. Ellis didn't use that word.

Thousands of drunken revelers set more than 60 fires on and off campus, and the biggest fire roared so high that it destroyed television lines. Many fires were set in residential areas, where students also ransacked several homes, sources said. The fires caused an estimated $500,000 in damages.

When police and firefighters tried to restore order, they were taunted and pelted with bottles. One mob rocked a firetruck so violently it was forced to leave the scene.

Violence, property destruction and defiance of police have taken place on numerous campuses in the past few years. Two nights after Maryland's raucous evening in April, a mob of 2,000 in Arizona, fuming over the University of Arizona Wildcats' loss to Duke in the NCAA basketball championship game, turned violent and were driven off the streets by police with rubber bullets and tear gas, while helicopters buzzed overhead.

At Maryland, rowdy celebrations continued this fall with the success of the football team. Police, however, cracked down in November after the team's final victory, enforcing a zero-tolerance policy on fires and arresting 15 persons.

"We won't be caught by surprise again," Capt. Ellis said. "We learned a hard lesson with the Duke game."

Students said police had become too forceful in November, and several filed official complaints with the university. But Linda Clement, vice president of student affairs for the university, said police were doing their job.

"The only people that were arrested were people that committed acts of aggression," she said, adding that it was unpleasant but necessary for students to be taken away in handcuffs.

"Students need to know that you can't act aggressively toward a police officer and not face consequences."

The university has worked at clarifying its expectations for student behavior, as well as the consequences for those who fail to comply. A Committee on Sportsmanship, commissioned by Mr. Mote in October, delivered a detailed report, with recommendations that Mr. Mote endorsed.

Mr. Mote said the committee's report establishes "some fairly specific guides for the campus."

"We don't want to suppress celebrations [and] enthusiasm," he said. "At the same time, we need to set limits. I'm hoping that as we get used to winning people won't continue to act like this."

Some students see the Orange Bowl as a break from disruption for the campus and as an opportunity for Maryland to improve its public image.

"We want to go down and get a good image for the school and show that we're not just a bunch of people who like to set fires," said Josh Madden, an 18-year-old freshman who is traveling to Miami for the game. "This can be a good way to turn around our image."


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