OPINION: Fresno State football is not safe for fans or players


The Bulldogs during a game against the Beavers. (Diego Vargas/The Collegian)

By Ashley Flowers

Glass didn’t break by itself and injure a mother and her daughter at the homecoming football game on Oct. 15. A graduate assistant coach committed the act by lashing out in anger at his surroundings when a play didn’t go his way.

However, much of the attention in the aftermath of the event has been on the glass itself rather than the history of violent incidents involving Fresno State football.

The Fresno Bee reported days after the game, on Oct. 17, that Fresno State was obtaining quotes to replace the windows in the press box with safety tempered glass.

Fresno State Football Head Coach Jeff Tedford told ABC30 that the incident “could happen to anyone.”

“I did hear that one of our [graduate assistants] got frustrated and hit the window and it broke. Obviously [he] wasn’t expecting it to break, which is very unfortunate. A learning lesson for everyone because it could happen to anyone. It could happen to the opposing team’s booth,” he said.

While Tedford’s comment takes some accountability moving forward, the suggestion that it’s a mere accident rather than an inappropriate act of anger is disappointing to hear from the man leading our football team. Realistically, it’s not something that “could happen to anyone.”

If a reporter in the press box or a frenzied fan or family member hit a glass window hard enough to shatter it, they’d likely be banned. It’s something that would normally land a regular person with charges, especially if people were sent to a hospital.

Instead, because it’s a coaching staff member, Fresno State continues to refuse to name the individual who actually broke the glass or acknowledge the unnecessary anger behind the action.

In doing so, an adult who evidently lashes out when things don’t go their way is protected by the university rather than fully ousted from a position of influencing and guiding our student-athletes.

While the glass-breaking incident has landed Fresno State in hot water in publications such as USA Today and Sports Illustrated, it’s hardly the first time Fresno State football has been the source of harm.

Instead, it’s the first time people are beginning to notice.

Physical violence is hardly uncommon at Valley Children’s Stadium. A fight in the aftermath of the glass-breaking incident last week was widely circulated on Twitter, but most fans can tell you they’ve seen a fight at nearly every game.

One of the most violent games was on Nov. 6, 2021, against Boise State, during which the Fresno Bee reported that multiple fights broke out, including one that involved at least 10 people and led to arrests and injuries.

One attendee interviewed at the time, Armando Gonzalez, described it as chaos and said innocent bystanders were pulled into the fray.

“I was really concerned for the safety of the kids, the people who’d come to the game with children and the elderly. They were trying to get out of the way of the fighting,” he said.

And it’s not just physical violence. The student-athletes on the field — emphasis on students — are used to being called derogatory names and slurs by the Red Wave the second they slip up.

Star quarterback Jake Haener’s brief foray into the transfer portal was met with immediate backlash, prompting him to make a public apology to the fans who had just slammed him online and even hung a sheet at the practice field that read “Haener is a traitor.”

Kicker Abraham Montaño faced intense criticism following the Oregon State game. He went 4 for 6 in field goals and 2 for 3 in PATs. If Montaño had made those kicks, the Bulldogs would’ve been ahead of Oregon State. Instead, the Beavers walked it off against Fresno State.

One reporter from The Collegian overheard Montaño being called slurs by fans in the stadium during the game, and a quick Twitter search for his name afterward yielded a stream of insults directed at him.

Again, these are Fresno State students. But that’s not enough to protect them from the vitriol.

Fresno State football is not safe. It’s not safe to attend a game, where you might get caught up in a nearby fight or be cut by glass broken thanks to an angry coach’s tantrum. It’s not safe to play the game, when even off the field student-athletes are facing slurs and threats.

How many more incidents is it going to take until Fresno State takes action?

It’s clear that injuries aren’t enough. There have been plenty over the years with little done in response. Apparently incidents of bullying and harassment aren’t enough either.

What will it take for Fresno State to stop blaming everything else — the heat of the game, the sale of alcohol, the outdated glass, the passion of the Red Wave — for violent, cruel actions?

What will it take to stop blaming glass for breaking and start blaming the person who broke it instead?