The Big 12 must do a better job of protecting athletes

Christina Huang, Double Coverage Editor

While last Saturday’s loss against Texas Tech was frustrating for Texas fans due to the team’s many self-inflicted errors on the field, there was another layer to the loss in Lubbock that made it sting even more. 

Texas Tech fans rushed the field after the 37-34 overtime win, before Texas players and personnel had a chance to safely exit the field. A video surfaced on Twitter showing Texas defensive end Ovie Oghoufo getting shoved from behind by a Texas Tech fan amidst the chaos. 

Texas Tech Athletics put out an official statement on Twitter, condemning the fan’s actions and asking the public for more information. 

“A video clip of a fan pushing a University of Texas student athlete was recently brought to our attention,” the statement read. “This behavior is unacceptable and Texas Tech Athletics has turned the matter over to the Texas Tech Police Department. We will work together to identify the fan and take further action.” 

While Texas Tech officially acknowledged the incident, the statement does not change what happened. Intensely passionate fans add to college football’s charm, but there’s a line between participating in a rivalry and being disrespectful. At no point should a fan touch a player in the way that Oghoufo was.

“I give Ovie (Oghoufo) a lot of credit,” Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian said on Monday. “I thought he showed great poise and composure. That could’ve turned into an ugly situation. I thought he handled himself well.”

Oghoufo’s nonreaction to the Texas Tech fan saved him and his team a lot of trouble. But he should have never been put in that position to begin with. The Big 12 must hold its schools accountable to prevent a similar incident from taking place in the future. 

The Big 12 fined Texas Tech $50,000 and issued a public reprimand for fans storming the field, but the university got off virtually scot-free. Lubbock-based City Bank announced that it would cover the entire fine. 

“The Texas Tech Department of Athletics has a written event management policy that, while well thought out, was unsuccessful in ensuring the safety and security of all visiting team student-athletes, officials, coaches and staff,” Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark said in his public reprimand. 

Despite Yormark’s statement, the Big 12 is still one of the weakest conferences when it comes to doling out punishments. A video of Texas Tech fans storming the field last Saturday can still be found on the official Big 12 YouTube channel. Last year, Baylor was fined just $25,000 for fans rushing the field after an upset win over Oklahoma in Waco. 

“It became a safety issue,” then-Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley said about the incident. “I care about the safety of my players, and I watched (linebacker) David Ugwoegbu just get bum-rushed by three guys. I’m pulling them off; he’s pulling them off.”

The Southeastern Conference has a strict policy on who is allowed on the field after games. SEC teams are fined $50,000 for the first offense, $100,000 for the second offense and $250,000 for each additional offense. No exceptions.

Access to competition areas shall be limited to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel and properly-credentialed individuals at all times,” the policy says. “For the safety of participants and spectators alike, at no time before, during or after a contest shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area.” 

While the Big 12 does fine its schools for violations and field stormings, there’s not an explicit policy like that of the SEC. Even though Texas is set to join the SEC very soon, it’s still currently under the Big 12’s umbrella of control. Regardless of who’s in the Big 12, the conference needs to have policies with strict penalties to protect its athletes.