WVU wins a big football game and students turn Morgantown into a riot zone.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before.
Unfortunately the big story the day after the Mountaineers upset fourth-ranked Baylor 41-27 isn’t about the game, but rather about how a portion of the fan base upended the community.
According to Morgantown police, the trouble started about 10:30 Saturday night when authorities responded to “reports of street parties with the probability of riots and fires throughout locations in Morgantown.”
Police say the initial complaints came from the infamous Sunnyside district, but rowdy crowds then spread to other parts of town.
Rioters set fires, pushed over street lights and threw rocks and beer bottles at public safety personnel and their vehicles. “The extent of damage throughout the city is currently unknown, but will be assessed over the next couple of days,” according to a Morgantown Police Department release.
Police say they called for the crowds to disband but when they didn’t, the police used pepper spray and chemical munitions “to disperse the crowds and prevent any serious injuries and minimize any additional property damage.”
Video turning up on social media shows scary scenes of students scrambling to safety when the police start firing tear gas.
Morgantown and WVU have been through this before, unfortunately, so we know what will follow. Some will accuse the police of not being fully prepared, and then overreacting to the situation. WVU will promise to take action against those students the university can identify as rioters.
But we have to keep in mind it’s the behavior of the rioters that’s most embarrassing.
Mountaineer fans packed Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday and played a role in the most significant football victory in years. But for some, the unbridled joy that came with the win wasn’t enough. They felt the need—fueled by alcohol–to adopt a mob mentality, destroying property and assaulting authorities.
WVU continually struggles with its image as a party school. I’ve always believed there’s nothing wrong with attending a university where you can get a quality education and have a good time.
However, there’s a difference between a party and a riot. Unfortunately, we were reminded again Saturday night that the behavior of some WVU students too easily descends into the latter.