Editor’s Note: Videos hyperlinked in this story include offensive language.
The LSU student section has been spewing profanities for years, but the rise of social media has made it easier than ever to document them, and the vulgar chants have been grabbing headlines all season. LSU officials have tried many strategies to rein in students, like issuing statements, starting a “Tradition Matters” campaign, and threatening to kick out disrespectful fans.
None has worked.
The rowdiness in the LSU student section represents a two-sided problem for Athletic Department officials who embrace the passion and noise, but condemn the rudeness and profanity that comes along with it.
The university’s Golden Band from Tigerland stopped playing fan-favorites “Tiger Rag” and “Talkin’ Out the Side of Your Neck” in recent years because of profane student chants that accompanied them. Students are also searched at stadium entry gates for alcohol and weapons.
Nationwide, athletic directors have grappled with how to combat embarrassing student behavior on game days. Rutgers University Athletics Director Julie Hermann apologized in September when Rutgers fans made fun of Penn State University’s Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.
Ohio State University revamped its entire game day culture after a 2002 win over Michigan State enticed students to riot across campus. Ohio State has made many changes since, like putting in place a system where fans can text to report unruly students and other incidents.
LSU officials are still trying to figure out the right answers.
“There’s a steep uphill battle,” said LSU Student Government President Clay Tufts.
The most recent game day contretemps happened when Dalton Guidry, an LSU mechanical engineering student, ended up in the hospital Saturday night after he was struck by a flying object. He needed four staples to close the gash on top of his head.
Guidry, who was back in class this week, said no LSU officials have contacted him about the incident.
But his story quickly spread across the university’s campus on Tuesday.
Many spread the message via social media that students need to be more careful and stop throwing their bottles and cups in the air to celebrate big plays.
LSU Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva has issued statement after statement this season, pleading for students to change their behavior. His most recent came Monday, when he called vulgar chants directed toward Saban “the antithesis of what we represent at LSU.”
The Southeastern Conference fined LSU $5,000 two weeks ago when fans stormed the field after the Tigers’ Oct. 25 win over previously undefeated rival Ole Miss. Alleva initially celebrated the win and said he hoped to pay the fine again after a victory that never came over Alabama, but Alleva later backtracked and asked fans to stay in their seats for safety purposes.
LSU coach Les Miles has also responded to the clamor.
When students booed starting quarterback Anthony Jennings during the New Mexico State University game, Miles said fans should blame him, rather than his players, for poor performances.
One attempt to curb bad fan behavior was the LSU Athletic Department’s 2013 “Tradition Matters” campaign. Stadium workers passed out thousands of “tradition matters” stickers and flyers in an effort to persuade students to not tarnish longtime chants and songs with vulgarities. Cheerleaders hoisted “Keep it Clean” signs into the air amid their flip flops and stunts.
Star LSU wide receivers Odell Beckham, Jr., who now plays for the New York Giants, and Jarvis Landry, now a player for the Miami Dolphins, starred in a video asking the same students who cheered them on to stop cursing.
The Tiger Band even brought back “Neck” and other banned songs to give students a chance to prove they could enjoy them, sans profanity. The effort proved futile.
The Athletic Department did not bring back the “Tradition Matters” campaign for this football season, though university spokesman Ernie Ballard said the officials will discuss if they should revive the campaign for next season.
Even if nothing changes and the student section continues its rambunctious ways, Guidry said in an email that he will be back in the student section.
“As long as I am a student, I will be at every home game for the entire time.”