Crack Down in The Gutt Quiets Student Fans

If you’ve been to a men’s hockey game once this season it’s all you need to notice the presence of the fans, especially in the student section of the arena. Loud and proud, and sometimes a bit inappropriate, the fans have been there through the hockey team’s resurgence over the last two years. To date, Gutterson Field house has sold out thirty-seven consecutive times, which easily qualifies it as the hottest ticket in town.

However, the picture that has been painted thus far sounds like it is somewhat harmonious. As of late, though, that would be a lie.

The root of the problem dates back to December 2, 2005. UNH visits a packed and wound-up Gutterson to take on the then #5 ranked Vermont. The game ended at 3-3 in overtime, it was a great back-and-forth game. Yet, that was not all that was remarkable about the game. The student section, largely cohesive as a unit as they had been all season long, stepped over the lines of acceptable behavior and incorporated obscenities into most of their cheers, and the ones that weren’t swearing still managed to be equally obscene.

Enter the school administration, the athletic department, and Gutterson security. As athletic director Dr. Bob Corran said, “The fans had been great and still are great, but we had to take a measured step. We have to draw the line at obscenities.”

This measured step meant a tightening of security and a more strict enforcement of the policy concerning fans’ behavior, one that in Corran’s words would, “…have the fans appreciate good sportsmanship, but not detract from their enthusiasm.” The night following the UNH game, Corran and the rest of the administration were pleased with the improvement in the fans’ behavior.

To the fans, it seemed heinous. Certain favorite cheers were either used sparingly, or eliminated altogether to preserve the “family atmosphere.” The buzz had been killed and it was not appreciated. How could they flip a switch and seemingly completely change the way they treated the student section? “Before the crack down it was really energetic, the fans were wild and loved to come to games. Afterwards, the energy really died, it wasn’t as much fun,” commented sophomore fan Luke Brind’Amour.

How does UVM’s policy stack up to the rest of the conference, our rivals, and the NCAA as a whole? According to Corran the core of the policy is part of a greater conference, and an NCAA-wide initiative to create a broader sportsmanship policy. The objective is to develop a higher level of sportsmanship at all levels of college athletics. Corran emphasized that the policy itself is relatively new and also that the policy at UVM has been pretty consistent.

Perennial power and conference rival, the University of Maine, has a policy that is almost identical to that of UVM. Its finer points include, “a) not engage in cheers that are vulgar, crass or demeaning; b) not use vulgar, abusive, racist, sexist, demeaning or intimidating language at any time; and, c) treat the visiting team, coaches and fans with courtesy and respect at all times.” Also, intoxicated fans can expect to be removed from the arena.

As unfortunate and unfair as the situation has seemed for fans, they can rest assured they are not being singled out. In the broader scheme of things the intentions of UVM’s policy are average, and they reflect the national trend toward improving sportsmanship in the stands.