Columbia police are preparing for crowds of potentially rowdy Gamecocks and urging students to celebrate responsibly this weekend if either of the University of South Carolina basketball teams win their Final Four matchup.
Thousands of people took to the streets of the Five Points district Sunday after the men’s basketball team knocked off Florida, while others celebrated in the wading pool not far from USC’s historic Horseshoe.
Police made just one arrest for disorderly conduct during that excitement, which Capt. Christopher Roberts called “phenomenal, for that crowd size.” No injuries or major incidents were reported.
“Five Points was the main focal point of the celebrations I saw,” Roberts said. “Certainly, everyone’s excited and everyone wanted to come out and celebrate the win. Our main function was to make sure everybody did it safely and respectfully.”
Many students jumped into the Five Points fountain on Harden Street during the hoopla. Roberts said there was some damage to the fixtures inside the fountain and to the shrubbery around it, so anyone partaking in celebrations this weekend is asked to stay out of the fountain.
Police expect alcohol to be involved in celebrations, and Roberts urged revelers to drink in moderation. Columbia officers will ramp up patrols in the area during the weekend.
“We certainly support everyone coming out in support of this historic time for USC and Columbia,” he said. “We want everyone to have a great time and cheer on the Gamecocks, but just do it in a manner that’s respectful of property and fellow revelers so there’s no injuries and property damage.”
The older portion of campus is another popular place to celebrate sports victories, with scores of students splashing into the wading pool in front of Thomas Cooper Library on Sunday.
The SEC Network also will be downtown to capture fans’ excitement. The network’s “Paul Finebaum Show” will be broadcasting from Carolina Ale House on Lady Street Friday afternoon. The “SEC Now” show will set up shop there Saturday afternoon.
In a letter published Tuesday, USC President Harris Pastides implored students to celebrate wisely.
“Coach Staley and Coach Martin reacted with humility ... praising their opponents first, then their families, players, staff, university and especially their fans in attributing the reasons for their success,” he said. “If you need a definition of ‘classy,’ that was it.”
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department is prepared to offer assistance if needed, an official said.