Sergeant Justin Mitchell enjoys watching the organized chaos of the Grove unfold.
Mitchell, who has served on the University Police Department for eight seasons, is among the multitude of University Police Department officers who ensure the safety of the Oxford community on game day. Officers arrive early in the morning and typically work a 15-hour shift.
“At the end of the day we are all exhausted and tired, our legs are sore. We are just ready to be off our feet,” Martin said.
He loves to see the people of Ole Miss celebrating and having a good time, but his main priority is the safety of each person on campus.
The University Police Department begins their game day preparation on Friday morning, taking measures to ensure order among the chaos of Saturdays in Oxford. Barricades are set up before 6 a.m. to be used later that day for Grove-detailing.
Once barricades are placed, officers begin to limit traffic at certain times on Grove Loop and down on University Avenue to the Circle. Tent vendors are allowed to pull up alongside the Grove and unload what they can before the Grove is cleared out at 6:30 p.m. At that time, security officers stand post around the Grove, ensuring that no one enters, until 7 p.m. when the tent run begins. After the tent run is over and vendors finish setting up, Grove detail is finished with their pregame duties. Patrol takes over Friday night until the game begins the following morning.
Security staff arrives early in the morning for their shift and reports to the Tad Smith Coliseum for their morning brief meeting. In this meeting, the members of staff are given a pep talk by individuals like Neal Mead, Associate Athletic Director for Event Management. Shortly after, they are given their assignments for the day and sent out. Neal works with two security companies: one with over 300+ crew members and the other with 65.
Once game day arrives, security officers arrange a three-tier system for game day. A portion of officers are allocated to group detail — they are responsible for ensuring order in the Grove — while some follow the team down the Walk of Champions or are delegated a post at the stadium.
“It is kind of like three different components,” Lieutenant Paul Sheppard, ground supervisor of D shift said. “There is the Grove detail, there are traffic posts and then there are interior football posts.”
There are four lieutenants that rotate the position of growth command officer and each officer positioned in the stadium has a section.
Tim Smith, a member of game day security since 1995, arrives at the stadium at 7 a.m. for the beginning of his game day shift. Donald Whorton, a recent hire of the university walks into Hume for his shift at 8 a.m. Smith and Whorton both work security detail on home game days, focusing on traffic and game day control wherever they are posted. While Whorton has little memory to speak of after working as security personnel for a short few months, Smith has an accumulation of stories from his years of work.
“I got to meet the Mannings,” Smith said. “All of them back when Eli played. I met his mom, his dad, his grandmother. I tailgated with them and we talked.”
Smith and Whorton’s duties as safety providers end after all the fans are cleared out of both the Grove and the stadium. This process usually takes a couple hours after the game ends.
As the excitement of game day shifts to the Square and campus clears out, security and police officers stay behind to bring as much order as possible to the mass exodus of fans. Another game day is over and their duties have been carried out.
“You are important to our operations,” Mead said as the staff members prepared to depart the morning of the Arkansas game. “I could not do my job if you were not doing what you’re doing.”