WVU officials keeping mum about countering potential riots
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - In football, giving an opponent tips about plays you might run is frowned upon.
When it comes to telling the public how officials will deal with future rioting following West Virginia University football games, school and Morgantown executives are adopting the same mantra.
"It's not a smart idea to dangle things in front of people and say, 'Here's your game plan,'" said Corey Farris, WVU dean of students. "Coach Holgorsen doesn't go out onto the field and give all the plays to the opposing team."
Hundreds of people took to the streets Saturday in Morgantown following the Mountaineer's victory over the University of Texas. Dozens of fires were reported, in addition to rioters hurling rocks, bottles and bricks at police and firefighters.
Since then university and city officials have repeatedly said such behavior is unacceptable. Farris, Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston, WVU Police Chief Bob Roberts and other officials met Tuesday to talk about ways to handle similar antics in the near future.
New tactics were discussed, said Morgantown City Manager Terrance Moore, who was present at the meeting.
But Farris said there could be "hooligans" who would monitor any announcements and try to flummox police efforts.
"The troublemakers are smart enough, will deliberately try to circumvent the order most people want in the community," Farris said. "Will there be a police presence? Absolutely. If I were the police, I wouldn't want everyone to know where everyone is."
The police chief agreed.
"We're not going to discuss those particular tactics at this point," Preston said Wednesday in a phone interview. "We don't talk about from an operational standpoint for things that we do, how many people we have on patrol . . . That's not a smart thing to do, and we don't do that."
A university press release issued Wednesday said officials weren't going to reveal specific tactics. However, it quoted Preston as saying "we mean business . . . it's a full court press."
WVU plans to add more surveillance cameras and have a larger security presence during future games, according to the release.
Disciplinary hearings for students arrested in connection with the Saturday disturbance already are taking place.
Only a handful of fans were responsible for inciting the mayhem, Farris said. However, he and Moore both said it would take a collaborative effort from the school, city and state to really nix such behavior.
Collaboration was a focus of Tuesday's meeting, Moore said. Although city and school officials always have worked together on game day safety, he said officials discussed ways of addressing such issues in the short term.
Stepping up enforcement is a part of that solution, Moore said.
Five arrests related to the weekend rioting have been made, but Moore said more could be in the works. He hinted that some already had been made, saying Wednesday afternoon the city would soon release more details.
"More and more people out there are in trouble," Moore said. "We have the ability to pursue. Thanks to technology and other resources, we can effectively follow up on individuals."
Late Wednesday, the Morgantown Police Department posted several pictures taken by the Dominion Post newspaper during the ruckus. The department wants help in identifying individuals in the photos because some could have committed crimes.
The problems won't be eradicated by sending more officers into the streets, Farris said. That will take a cultural change that officials have emphasized for years.
Farris thinks student posts on social media sites show many are fed up with the hooliganism.
"The students are the ones who are going to be able to change it a whole lot better," Farris said.
Ken Gray, WVU vice president for student affairs, and Zach Redding, student government association president, sent a joint letter Wednesday to every student email account. The letter calls on students to tell their peers engaging in dangerous activity to knock it off.
"We must stress to those involved in this unlawful behavior that they are putting their future as a student at risk," the letter states. "If they are cited, they will face disciplinary action which could include suspension or expulsion - to say nothing of arrests, jail time, and fines."
Moore and Farris both said they are nervous about similar outbursts following other football games this year.
Letting fans know there will be consequences is an important part of curbing bad behaviors, they said. Telling people specifics about how officials are going to crack down on the action is not.
"Our tactics and our focus will be citywide. They have to be," Moore said.