Capilouto bans alcohol in tailgating spots along stretch of Cooper Drive

lblackford@herald-leader.comSeptember 27, 2012 

University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has banned alcohol, DJs and bands from non-reserved tailgating spots along a stretch of Cooper Drive for this weekend's football game against South Carolina.

In a campus-wide email message sent Thursday morning, Capilouto said the move was prompted by fighting before and after UK lost to Western Kentucky University on Sept. 15.

"A small number of people acted in a manner that seriously threatened the safety of those around them and of police and other safety officials who are there to protect us all," the message said. "Such behavior will not be tolerated."

As a result, Capilouto said, there will be increased police presence in the non-reserved tailgating space along Cooper Drive between Sports Center Drive and University Drive. No alcohol will be allowed in the area, and no bands or DJs will be allowed to set up there.

Students found drinking or with bands will be subject to disciplinary action by the dean of students, Capilouto said.

UK spokesman Jay Blanton said a large group of UK officials from the offices of Student Affairs, the president's office, the police department, athletics and legal counsel met Wednesday with people from the county attorney's office, Lexington police, the jail and Alcohol Beverage Control to discuss what happened Sept. 15.

Two men were charged with disorderly conduct and other offenses after a UK police officer was hit in the face after UK lost to Western. Several other disorders were reported.

"We all agreed this was a responsible way to address a volatile situation," Blanton said.

One of the major issues, Blanton said, is that alcohol was being distributed in large quantities out of tents that were set up along Cooper Drive. Those were the places where bands and DJs were being set up, and where the problems have been seen.

"It is visible, and it can be enforced," he said.

It's not clear how long the ban will be in place, or whether it will be lifted in time for the Oct. 6 home game against Mississippi State. Blanton said the same officials will evaluate the matter this weekend before anything is decided.

Blanton said the area along Cooper Drive has become very crowded before, during and after football games, although he emphasized that the vast majority of tailgating around the stadium is done responsibly.

"It's become a place where a lot of alcohol is being distributed," Blanton said. "Everyone believes it has become unsafe."

According to police and court documents, Tyler L. Bearden of Paducah and Luke R. Stahl of Bowling Green were charged with second-degree disorderly conduct, alcohol intoxication in a public place, third-degree assault on a police officer, and resisting arrest, according to uniform citations.

They pleaded not guilty. The two were not UK students, officials said.

Police observed the two men in a fight while in the area of Cooper Drive to clear people from a party where several "disorders" had been reported, according to the police report.

The two would not stop fighting and had to be taken to the ground, according to uniform citations.

Capilouto's message also was sent to all UK football ticket holders.

Several UK students quickly denounced the temporary ban on Twitter and Facebook. Student Government President Stephen Bilas said he was sitting in class when "my phone started going off like the Fourth of July" because so many people were angry.

Bilas said he understands student anger, but he emphasized that the ban is for one game only, based on keeping students safe. Then it will be reassessed.

"I'm going to call for calm," Bilas said. "Everybody wants to share concerns, but it needs to be constructive. We don't need to be calling for people's heads just yet."

Bilas also referenced the problems caused by many non-students, such as some of the people arrested in the riots that followed UK's NCAA basketball championship this year.

Senior Eli Edwards said he thinks Capilouto is trying to do what's best for student safety, "but I can see why the students might be upset by this."

In his message, Capilouto wrote: "We want people to attend games. We want all of you to tailgate and enjoy each other's company in a responsible fashion. But we will not allow actions and behaviors that threaten the safety of our students, our fans or of officials who are present to protect everyone."

Last week, Capilouto said he would be willing to revisit the longstanding campus ban on alcohol in residential areas because of perceptions that it had pushed raucous parties into surrounding neighborhoods, but he stopped short of specifics. Blanton said the two issues were completely separate.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.

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