- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

When the Maryland Terrapins made their first Final Four basketball appearance two years ago, they squandered a 22-point lead and lost to the hated Duke Blue Devils 95-85.
It was a crushing blow to long-suffering Maryland fans, who took out their frustrations just as other college students have in recent years: With a riot.
Students and other fans gathered along Route 1 in College Park, set bonfires, destroyed property and taunted police. All because of a loss.
A year later, the Terps returned to the Final Four. This time, they didn't disappoint. But even a 64-52 win over the scrappy Indiana Hoosiers and a national championship didn't placate Terps supporters. They rioted anyway, as did disappointed Hoosier fans hundreds of miles away.
"It's very worrisome," says Jerry M. Lewis, professor emeritus of sociology at Kent State University and an authority on sports fans' behavior. "We in academia have a problem here."
Rioting has becoming disturbingly common in America, with postgame celebrations sparking riots on college campuses and sports-crazed cities around the country. It is by no means confined to post-game celebrations, as violence has marred rock concerts, movie premieres and "peaceful" protests in recent years.
"I don't know if there's any answer to this," says Dennis Pope, managing director for football and baseball for the NCAA. "We are trying to find causes and trying to find answers, and if we had one, we'd be addressing that right now."
Some universities, including the University of Maryland, have taken tough new stances against riot behavior, and the NCAA recently held a national conference on the problem.
But Mr. Lewis and others see little hope the riots will end anytime soon.
"The fundamental error is making these sports so important," Mr. Lewis says. "And that is a really tough nut to crack. I envision even the minor sports may begin to get national attention."
Mr. Lewis says he's devised a formula, of sorts, to accurately predict potential riot sites. Using five "conditions," he says, he can identify which colleges are ripe for riots.
Riots are more likely to occur, he says, on or near a campus when fans and students have access to a "natural urban gathering place"; the school or team has not won a recent championship or other important game; the game is of massive importance, especially a championship game; the game is a close one, and ends in an exciting manner; and, most importantly, that the team fans are rooting for wins.
"The key conditions, the two peak conditions, are that the team hasn't won recently and the natural urban gathering place," Mr. Lewis says. "Which, unfortunately, from a social point of view, you can't do anything about."
While he gives the NCAA credit for "finally waking up" to the rioting problem and addressing it last month at a special conference on sportsmanship and fan violence, he says there remains a feeling among some officials that the rioters are nothing more than crazy, drunk "bums."
That isn't necessarily the case. Most rioters are young, white males who are not at all crazy. They're just anti-social, Mr. Lewis says.
"People drink to give themselves the permission to do what they want to do anyway," he says.
For proof, he says, just look at films of rioters celebrating Ohio State's Big Ten football championship this year.
Rioters who turned cars over celebrated their accomplishment. They even flashed the "No. 1" sign.
"A guy who is 5-foot-8 can't play basketball," Mr. Lewis says. "But he can identify with a team by being violent."
After picking up steam in the 1990s, the riot culture blossomed in the new century and reached a boiling point on a single Saturday last fall, when riots, fights and out-of-hand celebrations tarnished several campuses within hours of each other.
On Nov. 23, one of the biggest weekends in college football, violence broke out after games between Michigan and Ohio State, South Carolina and Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina State, Washington and Washington State, Stanford and California and Cincinnati and Hawaii.
At Ohio State, the site of the most widespread damage that day, Buckeye fans celebrated a victory over the rival Michigan Wolverines that ensured a shot at Miami in the national championship with a normal exuberance that ended in a full-scale riot.
That riot was even more disturbing given what the university had done in preparation to prevent it, the NCAA's Mr. Pope says.
University officials went door to door before the game, pleading for peace. They also offered a free concert to keep students away from post-game parties.
"If you want a model for one to follow, you would follow that model," Mr. Pope says. "And yet it still occurred."
Mr. Lewis believes a culture change may be the only thing that can bring an end to the rioting.
For too long, society has dismissed the actions of young white men who he says are the most frequent rioters with a "boys will be boys" attitude. Sisters, mothers and girlfriends need to step up their disapproval, he says.
Maryland officials this year attempted to promote a cultural change with a new campaign, "Act Like You Know," seizing on the idea that Maryland students should be used to winning, and beyond rioting.
"The overall effect has been very positive, and we're seeing students actually pick that theme up," says George Cathcart, a university spokesman. "[But] we don't see that as a quick fix by any means."
Mr. Cathcart says the university had recognized that some students still believe they have a right to riot, and a complete "culture change" is necessary.
To help move that change along, the university this summer also adopted tough new rules against riotous behavior.
The policy sets expulsion as the presumed punishment for students engaging in riots.
"It definitely makes it easier for us to proceed directly to expulsion," Mr. Cathcart says. "We can move much more quickly, and students understand that."
It's difficult to formulate constructive policy for riots that break out on the "grass-roots level," Mr. Pope says. He, like Mr. Lewis, believes breaking the cycle of violence won't be easy not as long as there exists a segment of the college population who believes it's a "rite of passage" to riot.
"I don't think it's a passing thing at all," Mr. Pope says. "We all realize it's a long-term effort that needs to be made … I don't think anyone's assuming, 'This can't happen on our campus.'"

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