UVA Football: 'Unwelcoming,' say these beverage-toting fans
Except in the leased luxury suites, where ABC law permits it, alcohol is verboten everywhere inside Scott Stadium. But is UVA enforcing its no-drinking policy fairly during football games at Scott Stadium? Not according to one group of UVA alums who were kicked out of the home game on November 22 after a private security firm suspected one member of their party had alcohol in her drink.
The group–- many of whom are season ticket holders and donors to the Virginia Athletics Foundation–- choose to sit on the hill, the grassy area behind the north endzone, so they can all be together no matter where their seats are.
But sitting on the hill provided more than just a view of the gridiron, says one forty-something member of this group; it also allowed them to see allegedly unequal treatment stadium security affords big-money donors with sideline seats vs. treatment of the proletariat on the hill.
And at last week's game, he alleges, he saw something even more damning: racial profiling.
"It's one thing to put up with a mediocre football program. I'm accustomed to that after 30 years of being a UVA fan," wrote Scott Medvetz in a scathing letter to UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage following the incident. "But to submit to entering a police state to watch a game, to see policies arbitrarily enforced, to witness some classes and some races singled out for special scrutiny, is intolerable."
For at least a decade, UVA has tried various measures to crack down on game-day drinking. In recent years, fans were banned from leaving the stadium at halftime–- although some well-heeled fans have been known to buy an extra ticket to circumvent the policy.
Medvetz, UVA class of 1983, was with his wife and several friends sitting on the hill during UVA's November 22 game against Clemson. Just minutes into the first quarter, Medvetz recalls, a plainclothed security officer approached a woman in Medvetz's group and asked to smell her drink. The problem? Someone, says Medvetz, "had seen her stir her drink with her finger."
The security guard didn't stop there, Medvetz says. He asked the people sitting around that woman–- Medvetz included–- to hand over all beverages for a sniff-test. When Medvetz refused, he says, the security guard radioed for back-up, saying, "We have some people resisting." Medvetz, the woman, and another man–- the sole African American in the group–- were escorted to the top of the Stadium, where the situation got uglier.
While Medvetz and the woman were simply told to leave, their African American friend–- a 1982 UVA grad who says he has attended all but two games in the last 30 years but declined to comment further, citing fear for his own job–- was placed under further questioning.
"They asked him if he had any alcohol, drugs, or weapons," says Medvetz, "then searched him." During the search, officers discovered a "tiny bit of bourbon," says Medvetz, who admits all three had snuck in some type of alcohol.
The three were kicked out of the stadium with a warning, and when word of their experience spread among their friends, so too did outrage, even among those who weren't present that day.
"As of now I will never attend another University sporting event," wrote UVA alum Phil Christopher, class of '85, in a letter to UVA president John Casteen and Athletic Director Craig Littlepage, mentioning the administration's recent sign ban, which has since been lifted, and referring to the incident at the Clemson game as "racial profiling of the most heinous and vile nature."
Christopher announced his intention to cease giving any money to the university and to ask his fellow alumni to do the same.
Dan Schmitt, the president of Richmond-based RMC Events, citing company policy, declined comment; but AD Littlepage defended the security firm in his response to Medvetz's email.
"There is nothing that suggests to me that racial profiling is a part of this incident," wrote Littlepage, noting that "the person that made the observation (on the possession of alcohol) is an African-American." Medvetz, however, says the security guards who conducted the search were all white.
By phone, Littlepage expressed frustration with the accusations that UVA is coddling rich donors. There is additional security focused on the hill, he admits, but not because those seated there give less money.
"That's where we get most of our complaints from," he says. As for the claim of "profiling," Littlepage insists security had witnessed alcohol being poured or mixed.
Medvetz says he doesn't buy that explanation. He says his group was sitting quietly when the security approached them and that no containers of alcohol had been out at any point. And he notes that while additional security might have been expected at the November 22 game–- the day of the so-called Fourth Year Fifth, when UVA fourth years attempt to consume an entire fifth of liquor–- the tenor of security has been heightened at most recent games.
In his final email to Littlepage, Medvetz acknowledges he broke the rules, and agrees that anyone who is "openly flaunting" the rules should have their alcohol confiscated or be ejected. But, he insists, if alcohol rules are to be enforced, they should be enforced equally.
"When the University turns a blind eye to alcohol use in certain areas of the stadium (and even provides alcohol to its most well-heeled patrons in the suites), but encourages such vigorous and aggressive enforcement in others," he wrote to Littlepage, "then something is rotten in the state of Mr. Jefferson's University."