BY DAVE MEKELBURG
Published November 15, 2006
According to University officials, the best way to stay safe in Columbus this Saturday is approaching Ohio State fans like you would a herd of wildebeest: If you're around them, you'd better stay still. If not, you could be in for a stampede.
"Stay low-key; don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself," read an e-mail from the administration to the student body.
That's just part of an effort by officials in both Columbus and Ann Arbor to curb tension between unruly fans at Saturday's highly emotional showdown between Michigan and Ohio State.
Dean of Students Sue Eklund, Michigan Student Assembly President Nicole Stallings and Alumni Association President Steve Grafton e-mailed students Monday to warn them of the perils that Wolverine fans who make the trip to Columbus face. It advised students to travel in packs, cover up maize-and-blue clothing and leave cars with Michigan license plates at home.
Last on the list was an unexplained request to stay off High Street, the main thoroughfare of OSU's campus.
Michigan fans aren't the only ones steeling themselves for the worst in Columbus.
After Ohio State beat Michigan in 2002 to win a spot in the National Championship game, enraptured Buckeye fans tore the city apart, setting fire to dumpsters and couches.
On Monday, OSU released a series of public service announcements urging good sportsmanship.
"Cheer loud," Columbus Mayor Mike Coleman says in one of the spots. "Welcome our guests. And let's show our nation we are the best fans in the land."
It's not just flaming couches that concern OSU administrators. Flying glass could be a problem, too.
Three convenience stores near OSU agreed to stop selling all domestic beer bottles last Monday, The Associated Press reported. Plastic bottles and cans are still OK.
"Beer bottles are lethal weapons when thrown empty, and cans don't hurt you empty," Willie Young, OSU's director of off-campus student services, told the AP.
The stores can still sell Heineken, though.
"Our students drink cheap beer, so the foreign beers are not a problem," Young said. "You never see those bottles in the neighborhood."
Of course, officials in Columbus know that TV ads may not be enough to keep OSU students under control.
Columbus safety service director Mitch Brown told the AP that there will be an enormous police presence on OSU's campus this weekend.
And if Columbus-based law enforcement can't reel in belligerent Buckeyes, there may yet be hope for besieged Michigan fans.
Police from the University of Michigan's Department of Public Safety will also be in Columbus, giving the maize-and-blue faithful guardian angels of their own.