OPINION: Fresno State football is not safe for fans or players

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The glass did not shatter on its own and injure the mother and her daughter during the October 15 homecoming football game. The graduate assistant coach committed the act, lashing out in anger at those around him when the game didn’t go his way.

However, most of the attention after the event focused on the glass itself, rather than the history of violent incidents involving the Fresno soccer club.

The Fresno Bee reported a few days after the game on Oct. 17 that Fresno State was getting quotes to replace the windows in the press box with safety tempered glass.

Fresno State head football coach Jeff Tedford told ABC30 the incident “could happen to anyone.”

“I heard that one of ours [graduate assistants] got frustrated and hit the window and it broke. Obviously [he] didn’t expect it to break which is a shame. A lesson for everyone because it can happen to anyone. It can happen to the opposing team’s stand,” he said.

While Tedford’s comment requires some accountability going forward, the suggestion that it was just a fluke and not an inappropriate act of anger is disappointing from the man who leads our football team. Realistically speaking, it’s not something that “could happen to anyone.”

If a reporter in the press box or a rabid fan or family member hits the glass hard enough to break it, they will likely be banned. This is something that usually gets the average person charged, especially when people are sent to the hospital.

Instead, because it’s a member of the coaching staff, Fresno State continues to refuse to name the person who actually broke the glass or acknowledge the unnecessary anger behind the act.

In doing so, the university is protecting an adult who clearly lashes out when things don’t go his way, rather than completely removing him from a position of influence and leadership over our student-athletes.

While the glass-breaking incident has landed Fresno State in hot water in the likes of USA Today and Sports Illustrated, it’s hardly the first time Fresno State football has been in harm’s way.

Instead, people are starting to notice for the first time.

Physical abuse is hardly uncommon at Valley Children’s Stadium. The brawl following last week’s glass-breaking incident was widely shared on Twitter, but most fans can tell you they’ve seen the brawl at almost every game.

One of the most violent games occurred on November 6, 2021 against Boise State, during which the Fresno Bee reported that multiple fights broke out, including one that involved at least 10 people and resulted in arrests and injuries.
One visitor interviewed at the time, Armando Gonzalez, described it as chaos and said innocent bystanders were involved in the fight.
“I was very worried about the safety of children, people who came to play with children, and the elderly. They tried to get out of the way of hostilities,” he said.
And it’s not just physical violence. The student-athletes on the field — emphasis on the students — have grown accustomed to the Red Wave calling them derogatory names and insults whenever they make a mistake.

Star defender Jake Hanner’s brief foray into the transfer portal was met with an immediate backlash, prompting him to issue a public apology to fans who had just insulted him online and even hung a ‘Haner Traitor’ sign on the training ground.

Kicker Abraham Montagno faced harsh criticism after the Oregon State game. He was 4-for-6 on field goals and 2-for-3 on PATs. If Montagno had made those shots, the Bulldogs would have been ahead of Oregon State. Instead, the Beavers beat Fresno State.

One reporter for The Collegian heard fans in the stadium call Montagno profanity during the game, and a quick Twitter search of his name afterward brought up a stream of insults directed at him.

Again, these are Fresno State students. But this is not enough to protect them from vitriol.

Fresno State football is not safe. It’s dangerous to attend a game where you might get into a fight nearby or get cut by broken glass from an angry coach. It is dangerous to play a game when, even off the field, student-athletes face insults and threats.

How many more incidents will it take before Fresno State takes action?

It is clear that injuries are not enough. Over the years, much has been done, but little has been done in return. Clearly, incidents of bullying and harassment are not enough either.

What will it take for Fresno State to stop blaming everything else — the offense of the game, the alcohol sales, the outdated glass, the passion of the Red Wave — for violent and violent acts?

What will it take to stop blaming the broken glass and start blaming the person who broke it?

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