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NDSU athletics: Raucous fans a little much? University checks into incidents at football, volleyball venues

North Dakota State's student section sports yellow shirts and raises their collective arms at the Fargodome during a football game. Forum file photo

North Dakota State is addressing two separate issues regarding athletics and student behavior in the stands - one in a home football game and one in a volleyball match at South Dakota State, where comments apparently reached the point of bringing one Bison player to tears.

NDSU women's athletic director Lynn Dorn said she was in the information-seeking process and had yet to talk with anybody from SDSU. Meanwhile, SDSU athletic director Justin Sell said late Monday afternoon he was not aware of any issue regarding derogatory comments from fans and said nothing looked out of the ordinary to him during the match.

"I was sitting on the other side ... and it looked like a typical normal section in a volleyball match," Sell said.

But in her conversation with head coach Eric Hinterstocker, Dorn said, "I think he's very concerned about the sportsmanship being demonstrated. That was his main theme."

Hinterstocker said in his weekly press conference Monday that the 3-1 win over the Jackrabbits at Frost Arena on Saturday night was a tough win in a tough environment.

"The student groups behind us were really rowdy and really gave it to us and I thought our players handled it pretty well," Hinterstocker said. "It got them fired up after the third set. They were really on us and we came out firing in the fourth set."

Closer to home, NDSU officials were in the process Monday of reviewing its own policies in the wake of the football game Saturday against Northern Iowa. Bison athletic director Gene Taylor said some Bison students in the front rows of the student section engaged in verbal jarring with Panthers players.

"It started and it went both ways," Taylor said. "We'll take a look at it and see what we can do to address it."

NDSU students have sections reserved for them in the southwest corner of the dome and the closest seat reaches the 20-yard line. NCAA rules prohibit bench players from going behind the 25-yard line on each side, a stipulation that is commonly called the "coaching box."

The dome has security stationed in that area during Bison football games and Taylor said enforcing student conduct policies will be addressed this week. It's a problem that is not new in college athletics and not new to NDSU students. In 2002, a Minnesota State-Mankato head coach accused Bison students of racial slurs, an incident that prompted Taylor to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy where unruly fans will be ejected.

In a large setting like the dome, that's easier said than done. In basketball, NCAA rules mandate the front few rows behind the opposing team's bench be open.

"You look across the country, students are the most vocal and the ones that bring the most atmosphere," Taylor said Monday. "That's why you place them where you place them. It's always a concern when they're directly behind the opposing bench. How much we address it and what kind of changes we're going to make, we'll just see."

Taylor also said he didn't want to overreact to the situation. For instance, moving the NDSU student section would involve a large-scale operation of moving season-ticket holders to another part of the dome.

"Nothing terrible happened on Saturday that doesn't happen in a lot of student sections across the country," he said. "A couple of things were brought to my attention by their (athletic director) that we'll address. It wasn't out of the norm but it's something I'm going to talk to folks about."