Safety & Security

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Who’s Allowed on the Sidelines and How Close to the Athletes?

3 Nov, 2014

By: Tracey Schelmetic
OU Revises Policy in Wake of Sterling Shepard Collision with Camera Equipment

Oklahoma receiver Sterling Shepard injured his hip last week during the first half in the game against Kansas State when he landed on camera equipment in the crowded end zone while trying to make a touchdown catch. While he was able to shake off the injury and play in the second half, albeit with bruises, the event has highlighted an increasingly large problem in college and professional football: end zones so crowded that players and bystanders are increasingly at risk for injury-causing collisions. Photographers with excessive amounts of camera equipment are a particular risk.

As a result of Shepard’s collision, OU has updated its sideline policy.

“As we are all keenly aware, the sidelines at Owen Field are extremely tight,” wrote the organization. “In light of Sterling Shepard’s injury last Saturday and feedback from working media on the field and our staff, please note the following information for the final three home games of the 2014 Oklahoma Football schedule.”

The new guidelines include requiring that all field photographers keep equipment on their person on the sidelines going forward, banning tripods and monopods not attached to the camera, and banning all working media from the tarp area in the southwest corner of the stadium adjacent to the ramp leading to the visiting locker room.  OU Athletics urged the media and the public to be aware that the home sideline and the south end zone are typically more crowded than the visiting sideline and the north end zone.

The new rules aren’t limited to photographers. OU Athletics is instructing its own staff to keep photographers’ line of sight clear and walk behind them whenever possible. OU noted that it will continue to monitor its internal parties on the field in an attempt to ensure that only those individuals with a working function are taking up space, particularly once the game begins.

When asked by a reporter if players should be aware of people and things on the sidelines during play, coach Bob Stoops testily replied, “Those people ought to be aware. They’re not playing. Those people need to be gone or have one camera that you can leave with when you see something coming, not have three of them laying around and leave it on the ground and injure a player. Sterling doesn’t need to be aware of anything but competing like he was. People who aren’t competing need to pay attention to what they are doing.”

The photojournalist in question, Tulsa World’s Mike Simons, has since apologized to Shepard for the incident. 

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