Fan safety was the right
No one can argue with UH President Arthur
K. Smith's decision not to allow Texas fans into the temporary bleachers
erected at the north end of
the field in Robertson Stadium. No one
who entered Robert Stadium and saw the bleachers could have thought they
The welfare of students and fans at a football
game should always be every university's top priority. Smith deserves credit
for having the guts to
make the call.
Johnny Kow/The Daily Cougar
UH President Arthur K. Smith
talks about his decision to prohibit Texas fans from sitting in the temporary
bleachers erected on the north end of
Robertson Stadium to accommodate them.
The timing of the cancellation created
an uproar among Texas fans who, regrettably, won't be able to attend the
game and watch their Longhorns
Smith said he "was pushing very hard for
three weeks to come up with solutions to my uneasiness about this, which
go well beyond what any
contractor or engineer will say is required."
Orders were issued and the gears were engaged
with alacrity, dispelling the myth that a bureaucratic behemoth like UH
can't generate much
speed when addressing a problem. However,
in this case, a quick solution simply wasn't possible.
So UH takes a public relations black eye
because Smith did his job, watching out for the welfare of the fans in
those seats, despite the fact that
they were Texas fans.
UH hired the engineering firm of Walter
P. Moore to investigate the structure and make a determination about the
safety of the temporary seats.
I wish it were possible to report the stands
were safe and our Prez's action was merely a shot fired across the bow
of the Battleship Texas to
remind the No. 5-ranked team in the nation
this is a Cougar home game, not a Texas home game. Texas doesn't dictate
game conditions to UH.
But the stands weren't safe.
An atmosphere of irascibility has developed
-- or deepened, depending on how you view Texas -- between UT and UH because
Athletics Director Chet Gladchuk adamantly
refused to move the Texas game to a bigger stadium.
UH passed up $1 million, more or less,
to have the game in the Alamodome in San Antonio. Gladchuk refused to move
the game to Rice Stadium
or the Astrodome to enable more Texas
fans to watch their team play.
Naturally, the Austin crowd howled and
kicked every poor Tar Heel who crossed their path to vent their righteous
indignation at the discourtesy
shown to them by UH.
The fact is the engineering firm of Walter
P. Moore "discovered major problems concerning the ability of the grandstands
to carry the load that the
building code requires for such a structure."
The columns were improperly designed and
had only half the strength needed to carry the code required loads.
The stands didn't meet the code requirements
for lateral movement, or sway, which would result in instability. The structure
might have collapsed
under the weight and movement of the 5,000
Finally, the slender width of the braces
caused instability on some of the very tall frames.
Smith made the right call by denying access
to those seats.
The temporary seats will stand empty in
the north end zone when Texas comes calling Saturday, and you can bet ESPN
will broadcast those
empty seats back to Austin.
Smith hears it loud and clear from every
quarter, including The Daily Cougar, when he gets it wrong.
This time he got it right. The company
that built the bleachers got it wrong. Smith deserves the simple courtesy
of being recognized and
applauded for his gutsy call, even if
we do have to listen to the rhapsody of those burnt-orange blues emanating