Saturday, February 24, 2018

Fire Chief Cancels Game in Packed NCSU Gym, 1947

“Fire Chief Cancels Game in Packed Gym” from The Technician, the student newspaper at North Carolina State College, February 28, 1947.

Four Thousand Students Crowd Gym, Crash Gate In Effort to See Game

By Joe Swett

Over 4,000 screaming students jammed into Frank Thompson gymnasium Tuesday night hoping to see the high-riding Red Terrors take the measure of the White Phantoms from Chapel Hill, but only Fire Chief Butts came away with a victory. At 7:30 every inch of space was occupied with students and “visitors” standing in the aisles, hanging from rafters, railings and anything else that might lend a reasonable amount of support for the next two hours.

An announcement was made at this time that the gym was illegally overcrowded and that, per order of Chief Butts, the game would be forfeited to Carolina if all those not seated did not leave the game in 15 minutes. The immediate reaction was the doubling-up in the bleachers to accommodate all the standees, but the doors to the gym were promptly torn down by several hundred students in the unthinking mob still outside, and the gym again overflowed. The spectators patiently waited out the 15 minutes thinking that the situation had cleared up but Fire Chief Butts had to have his way, for although the Terrors had already taken the floor, the game was definitely called off.

At one point the announcer attempted to present a trophy to the outstanding player this season, but he was so soundly booed that he gave up his effort.

Rumors Halted Exit

Even after over half the crowd had swarmed down on the floor in a half-hearted move to vacate the gym, a rumor was circulated that the game would begin if the floor were cleared immediately, but in spite of the stampede Butts was immovable. Not until president of Golden Chain, John Wagoner, made an appeal from the middle of the floor did the students give up the fight. They knew that if John said it, it must be straight. All but four tinted lights overhead were turned out at this point in a further effort to speed the evacuation which seemed inevitable.

Fire Chief Butts was nearly mobbed on several occasions by the sullen crowd, but he was escorted to safety by a cordon of local gendarmes. As the chief’s car pulled away, it was met by a hail of rocks and curses, but he escaped without injury.

For nearly an hour after the final announcement of the cancellation of the game, the crowd milled around the front of the guy, hoping against hope that the game would be played after all, but it was no use. Although the conduct of minority of the student body was inexcusable, thousands felt they had been deprived of seeing the year’s biggest game here at State through faulty handling of the gym’s facilities. Much of the good work for sportsmanship at games and a more unified school spirit was thrown to the winds by this once-in-a-lifetime riot on the State College campus.

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