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Fights Break Out, at Least Two Injured as Fans Crowd In to See Pan Am Team

July 23, 1987|Associated Press

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Thousands of people became embroiled in a shoving match Wednesday while waiting to see the only intrasquad scrimmage of the U.S. basketball team that is preparing for the Pan American Games.

Fights broke out and at least two people suffered minor injuries as the fans stood impatiently for hours in hot, muggy weather to get into the facility.

The team has had closed practices all week under the direction of University of Louisville Coach Denny Crum, the U.S. coach.

Louisville and Jefferson County police cars surrounded the Bellarmine College campus, where the team was to play in the 3,500-seat Knights Hall, which is not air-conditioned.

At least 4,000 people had packed inside after officials were forced to scrap plans for the orderly distribution of free tickets.

"The crowd . . . they wanted to get the best seat in the house, I guess. And so they started pushing and we were handing out tickets . . . to make sure that we weren't breaking the fire code (for occupancy)," said Rob Brawner, assistant athletic director of operations and tickets for the University of Louisville.

"As it turned out, more and more people pushed from behind . . . so more and more people just kept cramming in front, and so we revised it and we opened it up and let them in."

As the crowd converged on the facility, four glass doors were cracked or broken and at least one ticket window smashed. Officials estimated damage at $1,200-$1,500.

"This facility is just too small to have free admission," said Jim Spalding, Bellarmine's athletic director.

Kenny Klein, Louisville's sports information director, said 2,500 people were waiting for tickets by 1:30 p.m.

The 7 p.m. game start was delayed at least a half hour because of fans who crowded the aisles and blocked the players' entry to the court.

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