Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

College Sports

April 17, 2013

Virginia Tech tightening security for spring football game

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech is tightening security for a busy weekend on campus.

The school expects as many as 40,000 for its annual spring football game at Lane Stadium on Saturday. Virginia Tech will also be hosting a softball doubleheader, tennis, lacrosse, an alumni soccer game, a kids festival and a meeting of its booster club, associate athletic director for internal affairs Tom Gabbard said.

“It’s a full day for us with just a ton of activities going on, so we’ve enhanced all of our security for the day,” he said Wednesday following a meeting about security planning. “Everybody’s geared up for it and I think we’re in good shape. You never know, but you like to think you are.”

Plans are to treat the spring game “much like we would a regular football game with a full crowd,” Gabbard said.

Law enforcement assistance will be provided by police from surrounding communities, the state police and sheriff’s departments, he said. All the agencies will be operating under the leadership of campus police.

Admission is free to the football game, but unlike regular season games, fans will be allowed to leave the stadium and return.

Those carrying bags will have them checked as they enter, and security will remain on hand throughout the game to re-check bags as fans return or arrive from other events, Gabbard said.

The game comes four days after the school marked the six-year anniversary of a shooting on campus that left 33 dead. While that massacre in 2007 caused the university to ramp up security as a rule, events like the bombing at the Boston marathon serve as a reminder to remain vigilant, he said.

Another reminder came Friday when a man shot two woman at a satellite campus of New River Community College just miles from Virginia Tech’s campus.

“I think the tendency is to get comfortable,” Gabbard said, adding that when events like the marathon bombing and the recent shooting occur, “it’s like, ‘Whoa, it can happen any day at any time, so let’s get back on our game.’ I think it can help as much as something like that can help.

“Our awareness quotient goes up, and I think that’s good,” he said.

The comfort level also can impact the manner in which bags are checked, going from thorough after an event to increasingly cursory over time.

Gabbard hopes that, given Tech’s history, that isn’t a problem.

“You’re dealing with somewhere in the area of 100 part time people that have been trained, for sure, but you never know what Johnny and Mary are going to do,” he said. “You’d like to think they’re going to do a thorough job and certainly they’re instructed to, but I’d say that we’re pretty sensitive about it.”

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