Orange Bowl guarantees safety for Cornhuskers

(c) Copyright The News & Observer Publishing Co. and The Associated Press, 1994

MIAMI (AP) -- The president of the Orange Bowl on Tuesday guaranteed security for the Nebraska's football team during the Jan. 1 game -- one day after the Cornhuskers switched locker rooms in apparent fear of retaliation by Miami fans.

"Any place where they can handle security for 34 heads of state for three days can certainly handle this situation," said bowl president Ed Williamson, referring to the recent Summit of Americas in Miami hosted by President Clinton.

Miami's reputation as an unsafe place resurfaced Monday when Cornhuskers coach Tom Osborne said Orange Bowl Committee executive director Keith Tribble had strongly urged them to rethink their pick of the large locker room.

"He (Tribble) told us they couldn't guarantee our security ...," Osborne said in a conference call Monday. "I was scared. Wouldn't you be?"

The No. 1 Cornhuskers are designated as the home team for the game against No. 3 Miami and can choose their locker room and bench. The visitor locker room is smaller by about 20 lockers.

They chose the visitor's bench because it is in front of their fans.

The locker room they originally picked is where the Hurricanes usually dress during regular games at the Orange Bowl. It is on the stadium's south side, so they would have to walk to the north side of the field to sit under their fans. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, would have to move from the northwest locker room to the south bench.

Tribble denied he had questioned whether Miami police could control the fans and said there were simply safety concerns raised in a regularly scheduled game-control meeting last Thursday.

During the meeting, which included police representatives, the issue arose of whether there might be danger to the players as they crossed in front of Hurricane fans en route to the visitor's bench, Tribble said.

Williamson said Orange Bowl officials have contacted Nebraska officials to guarantee safety of the team. The Cornhuskers have not decided whether to return to the larger locker room, a spokesman for the school said on Tuesday.

Miami police, meanwhile, were angry their authority had been questioned.

"The security in the Orange Bowl is better than in any stadium in the United States," police Maj. Bill O'Brien told The Miami Herald. "The crowd does not come onto the field in the Orange Bowl.

"This issue has nothing to do with public safety," he added. "It sounds like there's a hidden agenda and people are dumping their baggage on the Miami police."

Steve Pederson, Nebraska's associate athletic director, said the Huskers' original request -- made Dec. 2 -- for Miami's home locker room was made solely for reasons of space and had no psychological motives.

"This is such a high energy event, maybe some things get taken out of context from time to time," Williamson said.