Thursday, September 20, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 21


 
 









 
Fan safety was the right decision

Sports Opinion

Tom Carpenter

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 were safe.

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
in action.

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 former UH
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 Longhorn fans.

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 from Austin.
 
 
 
 
 

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