Best Practices For Game Day Security At Athletic & Sport


On September 11th, it became abundantly clear that stadium and arena operators needed to incorporate security safeguards at America’s sporting venues. Increased foresight and precautions have become an integral part of standing orders at athletic venues not only for protecting existing facilities, but also in the defense of future sites. The authors of this article formed a team of researchers who conducted a nationwide investigation on the current game day security operations at Division I college football and basketball sporting venues. This research highlighted a number of security precautions that should be taken into consideration during all phases of facility operation: from initial design through post-event debriefing. The authors realize that every venue is different and therefore each site presents unique challenges that stadium, athletic directors and arena managers will need to overcome. For that reason alone, the checklist was constructed by relying on an extensive review of literature along with personal contacts with prominent security professionals across America. An initial instrument was pilot tested for content validation to a select group of Division I institutions along with a small number of professional experts including the Vice Presidents of Security for all four major professional sports leagues. This work resulted in the creation of the “Game Day Security Operations Checklist” that consists of 38 items vital to security preparations at stadiums and arenas.

After designing the instrument, it was sent in a survey packet to all Division I athletic directors and university directors of public safety. The athletic directors chosen to participate in the study were identified through the 2002-2003 National Directory of College Athletics (Collegiate Directories Inc., 2002). The remainders of the study’s participants were identified through a combination of Internet research and personal phone calls to individual institutions. In addition to the Game Day Security Operations Checklist, the survey packet included a cover letter that informed the participants that all information gained from completed surveys would be used by the researchers solely for statistical purposes and would be held to strict confidentiality and anonymity for security purposes.

The participants were asked to rate the frequency with which they implement each of the 38 security measures on a 5-point Likert-type scale. The scale was set as follows: 1 indicating no emphasis (this is not part of our game day operations), 2 indicating moderate emphasis (we feature this at 50% of our athletic events), 3 indicating priority (we feature this at 75% of our athletic events), 4 indicating we feature this (this is part of our standard operating procedure), and 0 indicating no opinion.

One hundred and twenty-one different schools responded to the survey and that is representative of 38% of the Division I colleges and universities in America. Completed surveys were received from all 31 polled conferences.

How Does Your University Match Up Against The Best Prepared Football Stadiums

Figure 1. presents 21 concepts along with the mean score for the most secure stadiums versus stadiums operating at a lower level of security. At the request of numerous athletic directors and a reporter at AP News, the research team also categorized the costs of implementing each precautionary measure. Individual prices are not listed since the costs for each of theses measures varied according to geographic regions. Three levels of cost classifications were utilized and they included: Prohibitive, Moderate, and Low. The authors have included the actual Game Day Security Checklist as a separate addendum for those colleges and universities that did not participate in this research and who might wish to fill out the checklist prior to reading the results listed below.

Figure 1. Differentiating Concepts for Football Stadiums

Security Concept Most Secure Stadiums Lower Level Security Stadiums Cost To Implement Denoted as Prohibitive ($$$), Moderate ($$), and Low ($)
Establish Central Command 4 1 $
Venue Lockdown 4 1 $
Bomb Sniffing Dogs 4 1 $$
90 Minute Pre-event Concession Delivery Minimum 3 1 $
24 Hour Security 4 1 $$
Restricted Areas 4 1 $
Photo Ids for Employees 4 1 $
Formal Risk Management Plan 4 1 $
Pre-event Training 4 1 $$
Coordination with State Police 4 2 $
Formal Evacuation Plan 4 1 $
Awareness Nearby Explosives 4 3 $
Under Cover Surveillance 3 1 $$
No-fly Zones 4 1 $
Mobile ER 4 1 $
No Re-entry 4 1 $
1 Crowd Observer for every 250 Spectators 4 1 $
Security Patrols in Parking Lot 4 1 $$
Periodic Broadcasts Regarding Security Factors 3 1 $
No Carry-ins/ Backpacks 4 1 $
Post-event Debriefing 4 1 $

How Does Your University Match Up Against The Best Prepared Basketball Arenas

21 concepts were identified as being those security measures that separated the highest scoring basketball institutions from the lowest scores in the study. Figure 2. presents these concepts along with the score connected with the top 25% most secure arenas verses the lowest quartile of arenas operating at a lower level of security.

Figure 2. Differentiating Concepts for Basketball Arenas

Security Concept Most Secure Arenas Lower Level Security Arenas Research Cost Denoted as Prohibitive ($$$), Moderate ($$), and Low ($)
Establish Central Command 4 2 $
Venue Lockdown 4 1 $
Bomb Sniffing Dogs 1 1 $$
90 Minute Pre-event Concession Delivery Minimum 2 1 $
24 Hour Security 4 1 $$
Restricted Areas 4 2 $
Photo Ids for Employees 4 1 $
Formal Risk Management Plan 4 2 $
Pre-event Training 4 2 $$
Coordination with State Police 4 2 $
Formal Evacuation Plan 4 3 $
Awareness Nearby Explosives 4 1 $
Under Cover Surveillance 2 1 $$
No-fly Zones 1 1 $
Mobile ER 4 1 $
No Re-entry 4 1 $
1 Crowd Observer for every 250 Spectators 4 1 $
Security Patrols in Parking Lot 4 2 $$
Periodic Broadcasts Regarding Security Factors 3 1 $
No Carry-ins/ Backpacks 4 1 $
Post-event Debriefing 3 1 $

The Best Prepared Football & Basketball Conferences
Football fans anxiously anticipate the release of the preseason top 25 Coaches Poll just as basketball fans burn the midnight oil creating their March Madness brackets looking forward to the Final Four. Just as there can only be a certain number of dominant teams on the gridiron or hardwood, so there are a handful of superior athletic conferences when it comes to Game Day Security Operations. The researchers have discovered the following elite conferences that indicated compliance with the proposed security concepts 75% of the time or more along with their total score, out of a highest possible Game Day Security Operations Checklist total score of 152.

Figure 3. The Best Prepared Conferences

Football (Cumulative Score) Basketball (Cumulative Score)
SEC (100) Big East (88)
Big East (95) SEC (83)
Pac-10 (92) Big 12 (82)
Big 12 (91) Big 10 (81)
Big 10 (89) West Coast Conference (79)
ACC (89) Horizon League (78)
WAC (79)
Mountain West (77)

Figure 3. indicates a number of important results. First, a total of eight conferences participating in Division-I football complied with the proposed security measures at 75% of events while only six basketball-playing conferences achieved the same level of compliance. The researchers believe there are a number of reasons for this discrepancy. First, Division-I football stadiums resemble professional venues to a greater degree than basketball arenas. While this is a generalization, many football stadiums are used almost exclusively for the football games while being located off campus and shut-off from the normal flow of students, faculty, etc. In contrast, basketball arenas are often considered just another on-campus facility. These facilities are often used for classroom space, intramurals, and other daily events. The nature of football stadiums as being isolated from the routine college campus traffic and usage while also being more catered to corporate clients may allow for more stringent security procedures. This is one possible explanation for the discrepancy between the numbers of elite football conferences complying with the proposed security measures as compared to the number of basketball venues reaching the same level of compliance. Another possible explanation is that the number of events scheduled for indoor venues far exceeds the total number of events held in outdoor football stadiums. As usage of a facility increases, so does the cost of securing that venue. With daily usage of basketball arenas, stringent security may tax the university’s capacity to implement the majority of the security measures as part of its standard operating procedure.While a few of the suggested security concepts are admittedly cost prohibitive, such as the deployment of antiterrorism squads and the utilization of biological detection equipment that might be used at the Super Bowl or NCAA finals, in a similar manner that the daily implementation of even the moderate cost items may stress the average athletic department budget, there are methods by which a university may ameliorate this financial burden. For instance, Mr. Bernie Tolbert, Vice President of Security for the National Basketball Association, has suggested rotating the utilization of security concepts from event to event. This will prevent potential security threats from establishing a pattern to a venue’s security measures. Milt Ahlerich, Vice President for NFL Security identified the installation of jersey barriers or other concrete bollards as one of the most important factors. Fifty-six percent of the respondents for football and eighty-one percent of the respondents for basketball have not installed concrete bollards at their venues. While somewhat cost prohibitive, this one time investment coupled with several of the low to moderate cost items like prohibiting re-entry, no carry-ins, and the prohibition of deliveries 90 minutes prior to the event go a long way in securing these sporting venues.

Lessons Learned

The cornerstone of all good research centers on the transformation of theoretical concepts into improved practice. Similarly, just as teamwork is the cornerstone of all successful athletic programs, so communication is the foundation of all safe sport venues. If the unique atmosphere of collegiate athletics is to be preserved, and the excitement of Rivalry Week, Midnight Madness, New Year’s Day bowl games, and the Final Four is to be enjoyed by future generations of fans, then athletic directors and directors of public safety at college campuses need to scrutinize their game plans well in advance of the kickoff and tip-off of each season. Furthermore, coordinated communication must be a priority from pre-event training through post event debriefing. Several NFL teams including the Buffalo Bills and the Jacksonville Jaguars have planned and practiced coordinated responses to a variety of disaster scenarios. Stadium and arena managers with the support of their college and university presidents should develop and practice coordinated responses to a variety of disaster scenarios with their local, state, and federal first responders. Just as all players on a team need to have intimate knowledge of where they are supposed to be on the field or court and the responsibilities that accompany that position, so all athletic directors and support staff must be familiar with their particular roles and responsibilities. Simple knowledge of individual responsibility, however, is not sufficient. This is why constant communication both in the air and on the ground from within the hot zone and outside the hot zone is vital to the protection of collegiate athletic events should an attack take place. The head coach serves as the hub of all team communication and game plans just as the central command of a stadium or arena directs all communication efforts and coordinates the formal planning, from risk management to evacuation, that is necessary to securing the safety of players, coaches, the media, and the fanatical supporters in the stands.

Final Thoughts

The Springfield College faculty and students that comprised the Game Day Security Checklist Research Team for stadium designers and operators are hopeful that this easy reference checklist will be useful as the security and operation experts on the front lines develop their strategies to safeguard their athletic and sport venues. The Research team would also like to thank experts Martin Boryszak, Kathy Larue, and John Pantera for their counter-terrorism consultations. A special word of thanks is extended to Larry Perkins, General Manager of the RBC Center in North Carolina, and to the Vice Presidents of Security for each of the four professional leagues, most especially Milton Ahlerich, Vice President Security NFL, and Bernie Tolbert, Vice President Security NBA and Distinguished Weckwerth Lecturer, Springfield College Sport Management & Recreation Department 2003.

2016-10-12T11:55:38+00:00March 3rd, 2008|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management|Comments Off on Best Practices For Game Day Security At Athletic & Sport

Inherent Conflicts of Interest in the National Football League Management Structure May Render the Rooney Rule Meaningless


Recently, the National Football League (NFL) has come under attack for its minority hiring practices at the upper echelon management positions. Lawyers Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. and Cyrus Mehri have notified the NFL that they will sue unless substantial progress is made by the NFL in the hiring of African-Americans for head coaching positions. The NFL’s response was to enact the Rooney Rule, a league policy requiring each team to interview at least one minority candidate when seeking to fill a head coaching vacancy.

Although the NFL continues to face external opposition to the Rooney Rule which many opponents state is not aggressive enough, its most formidable opposition may be internal, occasioned by the inherent conflicts of interest in the NFL’s own management structure. This article will explore the conflicts of interest inherent in the league’s structure, including the respective roles of the NFL Commissioner and league owners.


The 2003-2004 National Football League season marks the league’s 83rd year since its inception in 1920. While, currently, nearly 70% of all NFL players are African American, only 3 of 32 head coaches are African-American(Simmons, 2003). In fact, the NFL’s track record in the hiring of black coaches throughout its existence has not been much better. When considering the over 400 head coaches hired all-time by the NFL, only 7 have been African-American revealing a grossly inadequate percentage of 1.75%.(Cochran & Mehri, 2002)

As illustrated in the following table, there have only been 6 African-American head coaches in the modern NFL, commencing with Art Shell in 1989. Prior to Shell, the NFL had not hired an African American head coach in sixty-four years.(Cochran & Mehri, 2002)

Table 1

African-American Head Coaches in the NFL

Fritz Pollard
Hammond Indiana Pros
1923 – 1925
Art Shell
Los Angeles Raiders
1989 – 1994
Dennis Green
Minnesota Vikings
1992 – 2001
Ray Rhodes
Philadelphia Eagles
Green Bay Packers
1995 – 1998
Tony Dungy
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Indianapolis Colts
1996 – 2001
2002 –
Herman Edwards
New York Jets
2001 –
Marvin Lewis
Cincinnati Bengals
2003 –

In response to a September 2002 study by Janice Madden, Ph.D., commissioned by attorneys Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. and Cyrus Mehri titled “Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities” and a threatened lawsuit against the NFL for its unfair hiring practices by the two noted attorneys, the NFL’s owners agreed, in principle, in December 2002 to implement a league policy requiring that any team seeking to hire a head coach would have to interview at least one minority candidate.(Farrell, 2003) This new rule became known as the “Rooney Rule”, named after the Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who serves as chairman of the NFL’s workplace diversity committee.(Lions’ Millen fined $200K for not interviewing minority candidate, 2003). Despite the NFL’s proactive attempt to address its own minority hiring practice problems, the Rooney Rule may never have a meaningful impact due to the inherent conflicts of interest posed by the NFL’s management structure. A “conflict of interest” is defined as a situation when an individual has a conflict between competing duties or between private interests and professional responsibilities. How does an NFL owner who sits on the league’s diversity committee and believes in the Rooney Rule in theory not in practice enforcement of the rule against other owners and himself? How does the NFL Commissioner who is hired by the owners and is accountable to the owners enforce the Rooney Rule against those very same owners?

The NFL Commissioner

In March 1941 the NFL named Elmer Layden its first commissioner. In broad terms, a commissioner’s role is to exercise broad administrative or judicial authority. More specifically, the NFL Commissioner manages the business affairs of the league and is its most visible representative.

The management structure of the NFL reveals the inherent conflicts of interest when considering the juxtaposition of the commissioner and the league’s owners in the context of such structure. While the commissioner is an employee of the owners, he also, in many ways, directs, oversees and otherwise polices the owners in the due course of his role in running the day-to-day operations of the NFL. For example, the commissioner may discipline an owner for violating a standing NFL regulation under the guise of maintaining the sanctity and integrity of the sport. However, this power is anything but unbridled as the owners hire the commissioner, and possess mechanisms to fire him when his decisions are adverse to their interests (Wong, 2002). If a commissioner’s paramount concern is his very own job security, how does he simultaneously do what is in the best interest of the sport in the face of the owners’ divergent interests?

Another glaring conflict of interest which compromises the commissioner’s ability to fairly carry out the duties of his office are the politics involved in pleasing the owners as a collective group. As a result of the varying and sometimes conflicting interests of the owners, in order to be effective, the commissioner must be diplomatic and political in his approach if he wishes to have a successful and lengthy tenure in office (Wong, 2002). How does the commissioner simultaneously, for instance, weigh the interests of owners of big market teams vs. the interests of owners of small market teams? Does he simply side with the more influential owners in name of his own job security, notwithstanding a potentially detrimental impact on the sport?

The commissioner also manages issues involving players. When the players and owners have opposing positions on a particular issue the commissioner’s conflict of interest is pronounced. Fortunately for players, the commissioner’s power over the players is regulated by three main documents: the league’s Basic Agreement, the Uniform Player Contract, and the Collective Bargaining Agreement (Wong, 2002).

Despite the adoption of the three main documents, professional athletes in the big four sports leagues (i.e., NFL, NHL, NBA and MLB) recognized the inherent conflicts of interest in the commissioner acting as arbitrator between players and owners in grievance proceedings. “First, players asserted that the commissioner would not be able to remain impartial if the grievance was against a decision he himself had made. Second, the players claimed that the commissioner of a professional sports league is hired and fired by the owners of that league, and therefore is not an impartial entity but may have a bias toward the owners.”(Wong, 2002) As result, players demanded and were granted a system whereby an independent party would act as final arbitrator.

The Owners

In 1900 William C. Temple took over the team payments for the Duquesne Country and Athletic Club, becoming the first known individual club owner.( Owners in the modern NFL are still individual or private franchise owners. As mentioned previously, the owners hire a commissioner who is charged with operating the league on a day-to-day basis and generally hire an individual they believe will advocate for their own best interest. It is not surprising then, that the current NFL commissioner, Paul Tagliabue, served as the NFL’s principal outside counsel prior to becoming commissioner. (

The owners establish league policies through a committee structure. Through membership on the various committees (e.g., finance, rules, diversity, etc.), owner’s set policy which, in theory, promotes the sport’s long-term viability, maintains its integrity, sanctity, commercial appeal, etc. Policies approved by the various committees are implemented and enforced by the commissioner. Finally, the owners operate their individual teams all of whom must abide by the policies set by the various committees and enforced by the commissioner.

The NFL’s management structure pertaining to owners as outlined above, also reveals inherent conflicts of interest. The owners hire the commissioner and author policies as committee members that the commissioner must, in turn, enforce against them as individual franchise owners. The owners as a collective group must also be able to place the best interests of the league ahead of their individual interests as franchise owners. How does an owner simultaneously consider conflicts of interest posed by weighing their individual goals against that of the league’s and the sport’s goals as whole?


Due to the NFL’s management structure, which is fraught with inherent conflicts of interest, the commissioner, who is beholden to the owners, is reduced to figure head status when it comes to the enforcement of league policies such as the Rooney Rule. Sure, the commissioner is empowered to levy penalties (e.g., monetary fines, etc.) against teams that violate league policy, but such disciplinary action is discretionary with the interpretation of the letter and spirit of the rule left to the devices of the commissioner on a case-by-case basis.

The conflicts of interest in the NFL’s management structure were, by design, created by the owners to benefit the owners. Therefore, in order for the Rooney Rule or any other policy to have a meaningful impact the owners must embrace it, not only in theory, but also in practice. The commissioner may attempt to cajole the owners into complying with a policy, but it is the owners who must actually take action. Owners must embrace a policy to the point that it becomes embedded as the normal and accepted way that business is conducted, notwithstanding conflicts of interest in management structure. This is the only way a league policy, fair hiring or otherwise, will have a meaningful effect.

Simmons, C. R. (2003, August 11). Cochran and Mehri Take Aim at the NFL. Retrieved August 11, 2003, from the World Wide Web: Source=Articles/11142002CS.html

Cochran, J. L., & Mehri, C. (2002). Black Coaches in the National Football League: Superior Performance, Inferior Opportunities. Retrieved August 11, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Farrell, W. C. (2003, August 3). Walsh Network Produces Diversity as Well as Success. The New York Times, Section 8-11

 Lions’ Millen fined $200K for not interviewing minority candidates. (2003, July 25). CBS Retrieved July 29, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Wong, G. M. (2002). Essentials of Sports Law (3rd ed.). Connecticut: Praeger, p. 13

NFL History — Chronology 1869-1910. Retrieved August 12, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Paul Tagliabue (1989-Present). (2002, August 26). Retrieved August 13, 2003, from the World Wide Web:

Author’s Note:

Corey M. Turner, J.D./M.S.W. is an Adjunct Professor of Sports Law and Ethics in the Graduate School of Business at the Metropolitan College of New York and Instructor of Business Law / Corporations at the New York Paralegal School. He is also Principal in The Turner Law Firm, P.C., a New York City Corporate, Entertainment and Securities firm.

2016-10-12T11:54:19+00:00March 3rd, 2008|Contemporary Sports Issues, Sports Facilities, Sports Management|Comments Off on Inherent Conflicts of Interest in the National Football League Management Structure May Render the Rooney Rule Meaningless