Police detain a spectator after a fight broke out moments after the UW football team won the Apple Cup on Saturday.
While the Apple Cup always sparks tension between UW and Washington State University (WSU) fans, ice thrown at the field made the game particularly hostile and dangerous this year in Pullman, Wash.
Thirty-four people were treated at an ambulance on Saturday night and eight were taken to the hospital; it is unclear how many of the 34 were injured from flying ice or from fights. Spectators throwing ice also targeted Semisi Tokolahi, a UW defensive tackle who broke his ankle during the game, while he was being taken off the field on a cart.
Darin Watkins, WSU’s executive director of External Communications, said Sunday afternoon that “dozens” of people were arrested for throwing ice at the game. Watkins said no exact number could be given because the numbers were still being tallied by the police department.
Balls of ice thrown were from sections throughout the stadium, but they originated primarily from two: the section of UW fans in the east end zone and the WSU student section on the north end. Subfreezing day-long temperatures left ice on the ground around seats during game time, which ultimately was thrown at people on the playing surface.
Not surprisingly, the primary targets for the spectators were the fans and staff of the opposing team, including the UW band when they were preparing for the halftime show near the WSU student section and the men carrying the “Cougs!” flags when they would run near the UW section. For the last touchdown, the Cougars’ flaggers didn’t run near the UW section, unlike the first several times.
No UW band members were taken to the hospital, though some were treated by paramedics on the scene.
WSU band member Katie Munter said she was not sure how many of her colleagues were hit, but did say several members had to go to the hospital after being struck by ice.
Despite the UW-WSU rivalry, Munter said members from both bands were helping shield one another from ice.
“We were all trying to just shield each other. There were a lot of Cougar marching band players who were shielding the Husky band members,” Munter said. “And I know one person who got hit in the hand and broke her hand because she was shielding someone else.”
Matthew Haack, a UW band member whose ear was bloodied after being hit with ice, said there was no talk of moving the band prior to halftime when they were being targeted by fans.
“They never talked about moving the band or marching us back,” Haack said. “They figured if the Cougar band was there, they weren’t going to throw ice at us because it was their own band. So they were trying to protect us, but that did not work.”
Nobody near the field was completely safe from being hit by thrown ice; not only were photographers and even referees targeted or hit but fans were also struck by errant throws, particularly those in the lower rows of the WSU student section. After UW fans rushed the field following their team’s victory, they were warned by authorities not to go near the north side of the stadium for safety reasons.
WSU Police Chief Bill Gardner released a statement on behalf of his police department following the game condemning the violence, saying he “was disappointed in the fans’ behavior on both sides” and calling their actions both “inappropriate and dangerous.”
Watkins said that WSU has not released an official statement on the throwing of ice, but he did convey the gravity of the situation.
“These are serious incidents,” Watkins said. “It was not a snowball that was being thrown, these were chunks of ice.”
Watkins was not sure whether photographs and video would be used to track down more people who threw ice, but did note that those who had been caught might be charged with reckless endangerment. Reckless endangerment convictions can be accompanied by fines or jail time.
Neither the UWPD nor the UW administration could be reached for comment.
Reach reporter William Dow at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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