Univ. of Florida Band Director Slammed to Ground By Miami Fan

The incident created conversation about safety and security provided for visiting teams when competing at neutral stadium.
Published: August 29, 2019

The University of Florida’s band director was assaulted Saturday night as he led the band back to its buses after a football game against the University of Miami.

John “Jay” Watkins, director of the Pride of the Sunshine Fighting Gator Marching Band, was walking with his band back to the bus after the game at Camping World Stadium in Orlando when a University of Miami fan attempted to push her way through the marching band, Gainesville.com reports.

“They don’t like to have people cut across the line because it makes it harder to keep track of the students,” said UF spokesperson Steve Orlando.

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When Watkins put his hand up to stop her, someone came from behind, put him in a choke hold and slammed him into the pavement. Watkins sustained bumps and scrapes on his head and elbows. No other injuries were reported.

“That was the most important thing to us and to Jay, that no students were hurt,” Orlando said. “It’s a terribly unfortunate thing that shouldn’t have happened.”

Watkins has not filed charges but did file an incident report with the Orlando Police Department. According to the incident report, an officer observed fans leaving the game at the same time as the marching band.

“The crowd was already unruly and the band was now adding to the delays,” the report said. The unidentified woman had tried to push her way through the marching band, “battering several of the band members as she went.”

The report also stated that a “UF band member was also treated at the scene for hyperventilation, brought on by seeing her band director battered.”

Florida State University band director Patrick Dunnigan wrote in a Facebook post that stadium operators need to provide security for visiting bands.

Clemson University’s band director and former UF assistant band director Mark Spede, who is also the president of the College Band Directors National Association, said schools typically do a good job of maintaining security for visiting teams. Since this particular incident occurred at a neutral site, there may be fewer security protocols required, he added.

“We’re at the mercy of the security provided at the neutral site, rather than what the university might usually employ,” he said.

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