Attack of the footballs

Without nets to stop footballs from entering crowd, band members and fans face being struck by balls


Illustration by Ivan Benavides | Creative Director

Zak Sadik, Contributing Writer

 Being part of the Marching Owls requires talent, dedication and an awareness of flying objects from the playing field at football games.

Members of the band have found themselves ducking and diving out of the way of incoming footballs while in their section in the south end zone at FAU Stadium, mostly coming from field goal and extra point attempts that come during practice and games.

“It’s always been a problem,” junior music education major Jacquelyn Kent said. “I’ve been hit once or twice with a football; it always happens.”

Students attempt to catch a ball that went through the upright earlier this season. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer
Students attempt to catch a ball that went through the upright earlier this season. Max Jackson | Staff Photographer

Neither upright at Florida Atlantic is equipped with safety nets – or ball stoppers – used at many professional and collegiate stadiums to keep the ball from hitting people in the crowd and prevent fans from stealing the ball after the play is over.

Kent, a two-year member of the band’s drumline, said that without the nets, the band members have had to take measures on kick attempts to avoid getting hurt.

“We’ve started to look out for each other,” she said. We warn people by yelling ‘Heads up! Heads up!’ if we see a ball coming.”

Even with the added awareness, there still have been injuries. One member of the color guard injured her wrist after being hit this season and was unable to perform in the band’s halftime show.

“It’s ridiculous that someone got hurt and couldn’t do their job,” Kent said.

Florida Atlantic Athletics said in a statement that the use of nets isn’t governed or required by the NCAA or Conference USA.

“There are always inherent risks in attending sporting events,” the department said in a statement. “The athletic department takes all reasonable steps to minimize those risks, while at the same time working hard to preserve the experience for our fans.”

Kent said band members sign a contract that implies FAU and its athletic department assume no responsibility for damage resulting from being hit with a football. Fans who sit in sections behind the upright are also not allowed to sue, due to the waiver of responsibility statement printed on tickets (see sidebar).

Previously, the Marching Owls sat in the west end of Lockhart Stadium (FAU football’s previous home), where there was also no net.

A possible solution could be moving the band to another location of the stands, but at the expense of ticket holders in another section.

“I don’t know where they would put us,” Kent said. “The red seats are designed so that we can move around easily. The location also has easy access to the field, so that we don’t disrupt fans watching the game. I think moving us would cause more problems than if we just had nets there.”

According to the athletic equipment site myAAEworld, football nets cost between $6,000 and $11,000 per net, depending on size and materials.

“I think having the nets there is kind of a no-brainer,” said senior Saudia Ali, a communication major. “I don’t really see a downside to it.”

Until a solution is found, both band members and fans will continue to be in the line of fire.

“Athletes get some perks from athletics, they get meals and things; I think it would just be one thing to make the band experience better,” Kent said. “It would be fantastic if they put up a net.”

Zakaria Sadik is a contributing writer with the University Press. To contact him on this or other stories he can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter.