Saturday, January 4, 2003

Columbus celebration peaceful



By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Police in full riot gear were there to greet joyous Buckeye fans as they streamed out of campus-area bars early today after Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl win. Police made 16 arrests - mostly for alcohol violations - but there was none of the violent rioting that took place after the Buckeyes' Nov. 23 win over Michigan.

Minutes after the Buckeyes held on for their 31-24 win, hundreds of fans began pouring out onto High Street and Lane Avenue, some wearing large foam hats in the shape of "the Horseshoe," the nickname for Ohio Stadium.

"It's like Christmas Day all over again," said Randy Sanders, a 30-year-old fan from Dublin, Ohio. "I just woke up and got what I wanted, a Buckeye win."

Celebrations were taking place all over Columbus, but police concentrated their manpower on the campus area, where in November, about 60 people were arrested in rioting after the Michigan game.

Shortly after 10 p.m., three dozen Columbus police officers in riot gear marched three blocks from the staging area near Ohio Stadium to the corner of Lane and High, to begin a show of force.

At the staging area, dozens of police cruisers and several prisoner-transport buses lined the parking lot, ready to respond if the celebration got out of hand.

As of midnight, police had cited owners of seven bars and carryouts in the campus area for selling alcohol to underage customers.

Columbus police tried to prevent the overturning of cars that happened in November by bagging parking meters and hanging signs saying that on-street parking would not be allowed after 4 p.m.

But in an agreement with university officials, police said that people whose cars were towed to the lot at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center would not be charged.

Outside the Varsity Club, a bar on Lane Avenue near the football stadium, fans began pouring out into the streets the minute the game was over.

Some carried beers in their hands, and all were shouting "We're Number One."

Many were blasting air horns and cars driving up and down nearby Neil Avenue responded by blasting their car horns.

"It's beautiful, truly beautiful," yelled Sam Guarino of suburban Worthington. "I've waited for this all my life."

By 12:30 a.m., some fans on High Street were already wearing Ohio State championship T-shirts, that a local firm had screened late Friday night and rushed down to the center of campus.

E-mail hwilkinson@enquirer.com

The Associated Press contributed to this report.




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