ASISU President Jessica Sargent and Vice President Dez Ruiz met with university officials last week to discuss the treatment of students by Holt Arena staff members during Idaho State’s home football game against Montana.
Both Sargent and Ruiz met with Vice President for University Advancement Kent Tingey and Holt Arena Director of Events George Casper to discuss the matter last week. According to Ruiz, the issue has now been resolved.
According to Tingey, who is the father of athletic director Jeff Tingey, the issue during the Montana games wasn’t about sporting behavior, but rather, about where students could and couldn’t watch the game, saying how some members of the Holt Arena staff were being “overly aggressive,” in how they handled the situation.
“They felt like the staff was making sure that they sat where their ticket was,” Tingey said. “As an example, some students would go over to a reserved section that had empty seats and staff members were telling them that they couldn’t sit there.”
A total of 7,279 attended the Montana game earlier this month, the largest crowd Holt Arena has seen this season. Holt Arena holds about 12,000 for football games.
“As ASISU VP my obligation is to ensure that any issues that involved students are addressed in a timely and appropriate manner,” Ruiz wrote in an email to The Bengal. “After [the Montana] game, Jessica and I reached out to administration to discuss some of the concerns that were brought to our attention.”
The BLOCK, which defines themselves as “the unofficial student section,” on Twitter, sent out a tweet following the game that if any of its followers, which is about 300, had any issue about the way the Holt Arena staff treated the students during the Montana football game to email Ruiz. The tweet was retweeted 10 times and received 29 favorites.
“The voice of the students has been heard by the supportive administration, and the proper steps were taken to eliminate and prevent further incidents,” The BLOCK wrote in a direct message on Twitter. “This is another leap towards creating an official student section at school sporting events. The BLOCK couldn’t be happier.”
Neither Ruiz or The BLOCK responded to further questioning by The Bengal.
Tingey said that specific occurrences were not discussed at the meeting, only the overarching treatment by the staff towards the students.
He added that the meeting was, “outstanding” and said that all three sides, “clearly care about supporting Idaho State University and supporting the university athletics and in this case football.”
Tingey said that sporting behavior, which has been an issue in the past, on the part of students was not discussed at the meeting and wasn’t an issue during the Montana game, but mentioned that the students must abide by the Big Sky Conference policy of sporting behavior.
The policy is read aloud on the PA system about 30 minutes prior to every football game. Tingey had the policy at-the-ready and read the statement word-for-word during a phone interview last Thursday.
The statement reads, “The Big Sky Conference and Idaho State University encourage and promote good sporting behavior by student-athletes, coaches and spectators. We request your cooperation by supporting participants and officials in a positive manner. Profanity, racial or sexist comments or other intimidating actions, directed at officials, students, athletes, coaches or team representatives will not be tolerated and are grounds for removal from Holt Arena.”
“That’s the line,” Tingey said. “We need to make sure that they abide by the Big Sky policy but at the same time make sure that the Holt Arena staff understands that the students are there to have fun and enjoy the game experience within those rules.”
According to Tingey, none of that happened during the Montana game, which featured an entire week of he said-he said between Idaho State head football coach Rob Phenicie and Montana head football coach Bob Stitt. The game also saw a public reprimand of Idaho State wide receiver Michael Dean following a hand gesture directed towards Montana fans in a game that Idaho State lost 39-31.
“That was not an accusation of what was going on,” Tingey said. “It more had to do with them having concern about how they were being treated by staff members at Holt Arena.”
Some students, fans and alumni on a closed Facebook group, which has over 5,000 members, said this has been a pressing issue for years. One commentor stated that the issue stemmed back to 2000 and claimed that it’s hard to get into the game when the students can’t freely move around.
Tingey said that Casper and would be training the staff on how to better handle future situations and that some staff members would be reassigned to different sections.
“We talked about how we can communicate and educate better,” Tingey said. “We talked about how each side understands the roles of the other. We have great student leadership.”
Idaho State’s next home game is this Saturday against Portland State.