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Deviant Behavior ISSN: 0163-9625 (Print) 1521-0456 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/udbh20

Deviant Behavior

Deviant Behavior ISSN: 0163-9625 (Print) 1521-0456 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/udbh20

ISSN: 0163-9625 (Print) 1521-0456 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/udbh20

Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting: Analysis of Criminal Behavior During the SEC Football Season

Ashley Coker-Cranney, Chelsea B. Wooding, Megan Byrd & Peter L. Kadushin

To cite this article: Ashley Coker-Cranney, Chelsea B. Wooding, Megan Byrd & Peter L. Kadushin (2016): Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting: Analysis of Criminal Behavior During the SEC Football Season, Deviant Behavior, DOI: 10.1080/01639625.2016.1197036

Published online: 12 Aug 2016.  

Published online: 12 Aug 2016.

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DEVIANT BEHAVIOR http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2016.1197036
DEVIANT BEHAVIOR http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2016.1197036

Saturday Night s Alright for Fighting: Analysis of Criminal Behavior During the SEC Football Season

Ashley Coker-Cranney a , Chelsea B. Wooding b , Megan Byrd a , and Peter L. Kadushin c

a West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, USA; b Chicago, Illinois, USA; c Western State Colorado University, Gunnison, Colorado, USA


Evidence suggests that live sporting events may lead fans to engage in criminal behaviors. The current study examined the relationship between criminal behavior and college football game days. Archival data of criminal offenses were collected from Southeastern Conference member institution police departments to analyze reported criminal offenses during the regular season. Multilevel linear models revealed an increase in criminal behavior. A factorial ANOVA indicated an interaction of team rankings and game out- come was related to specific types of criminal behavior in the host city ( F (1, 9142) = 20.07, p < .001). Results provide insight to more effectively allocate resources.


Received 15 June 2015 Accepted 22 February 2016

Over the past few years, stories of violence and criminal behavior related to sport and fan behavior have flooded mainstream media and research journals alike. Ideally, fans of all sports would be able to watch their team and celebrate a win or mourn a loss without violating laws or the safety of others. Unfortunately, popular media and, more recently, scientific research, have shown a connec- tion between sporting events and an increase in violence (Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 ; Spaaij 2008) and criminal behavior (Rees and Schnepel 2009 ). Both outcomes may lead to property damage and injuries of other fans, athletes, officials, and first responders (Suggs 2003). Thus, the expense of preventing and controlling violence and/or criminal behavior by universities, communities, and others is immense (Russell 2004 ). A better understanding of the relationship between sporting events and crime could help these communities more effectively allocate funds. In addition, police, fire, and other emergency service departments might be able to better prepare their personnel for effective prevention tactics to keep everyonefans, athletes, coaches, and themselves safe. Researchers note that fan violence has not been examined nearly as much by scientific research as it was by popular media (e.g., Ward 2002 ). With the call to action for a better understanding of fan aggression, research has started to examine the connection between sport and violence. For instance, studies have found connections between various sporting events and gang-like behavior (Spaaij 2008 ), domestic violence (Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 ), and increased willingness to commit violent acts following a team loss (Wann et al. 2005 ). Moreover, an archival newspaper article analysis indicated that fans might exhibit a desire to join inby engaging in violence with an opposing fan when members of the fan s team physically fought with an opposing player (Smith 1976 ). However, fewer studies to date (e.g., Rees and Schnepel 2009) have examined the effect of football spectator- ship on nonviolent fan behavior. Therefore, the present study seeks contribute to the literature by presenting an understanding of contributors to both violent and nonviolent fan behavior. Contributors to spectator violence currently noted in the literature include: on-field violence (e.g., Smith 1976 ), the environment of the sporting event (e.g., Bech 1994 ; Madensen and Eck 2008 ),

CONTACT Ashley Coker-Cranney, M.S., Ph.D.

Psychology, West Virginia University, P.O. Box 6116 Morgantown, WV 26506, USA.

© 2016 Taylor & Francis

6116 Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. © 2016 Taylor & Francis Ashley.CokerCranney@mail.wvu.edu Department of Sport and


Morgantown, WV 26506, USA. © 2016 Taylor & Francis Ashley.CokerCranney@mail.wvu.edu Department of Sport and Exercise

Department of Sport and Exercise


2 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. physiological arousal (Branscombe and Wann 1992 ), and individual factors (e.g.,


physiological arousal (Branscombe and Wann 1992 ), and individual factors (e.g., Lee 1985 ; Wakefield and Wann 2006 ). These contributing factors may converge to increase the likelihood of fan violence and criminal behavior surrounding sporting events. For example, research indicates that the relationship between fans that result in ingroup versus outgroup comparisons may lead to increased antagonism, prejudice, and hostility (Lee 1985 ), especially if the out-group is considered a rival. Additionally, social dysfunction leads to other forms of aggressive behavior and violence (Bech 1994). That is, highly dysfunctional fans were much more likely to report increased criticism of referees after a perceived wrong call, believe that alcohol consumption is a necessary element of game experience, report higher levels of sports media intake than low dysfunctional fans, and attend more games than low dysfunctional fans (Wakefield and Wann 2006 ). Thus, the environment of college football game days may reinforce ingroup/outgroup comparisons and attract highly dysfunc- tional fans, inadvertently encouraging antisocial behavior, although research specific to criminal behavior is sparse. To understand how the nature of the sport, the environment, and individual factors interact to encourage spectator violence, several theories have been introduced. In particular, Social Learning Theory indicated that individuals are most likely to commit violence if they have witnessed violent acts, have witnessed the reinforcement of violent acts of similar others, and have been reinforced, themselves, for committing similar violent acts (Bandura 1978). For instance, Smith ( 1976) found that 76% of incidents of crowd violence were preempted by player-on-player violence, from individual fouls to bench clearing brawls. Further, research has found that the vicarious experience of watching a sporting event leads to significant increases in arousal, especially for those who strongly identify with the losing team (Branscombe and Wann 1992 ). A substantial body of evidence links physiological arousal and frustration-generated aggression (Berkowitz 1989 ; Zillmann 1983 ). Therefore, it is likely that vicarious experience can prompt fan aggression, even in the absence of personal experience or objective level of aggression within the sport. Overall, Social Learning Theory might provide an adequate explanation of spectator violence after fans witnessed violence at a sporting event; however, research has also supported the importance of environmental factors surrounding the fans and sporting events in predicting spectator behavior. Research has supported the connection between violence modeled by significant others and other environmental factors, which can influence individual perceptions of others hostility. Wann and Branscombe ( 1990) found that when participants were presented with words related to aggressive sports as a primer they were more likely to interpret ambiguous actions as more hostile and more likely to endorse aggressive actions. Thus, violence modeled by players, combined with environ- mental factors that contribute to spectator violence in stadiums (e.g., noise level, seating arrange- ments, team reputation, temperature, stadium location, crowd demographics, event significance, performance quality, alcohol availability, crowding, event duration, Madensen and Eck 2008; aggres- sive language, Wann and Branscombe 1990 ), provides an aggressive prime for individuals to see others as hostile. To more specifically address environmental influences on fan behavior, Wann and colleagues (2005) indicate that an increase in violence by spectators may be linked to fan identification with a specific team. According to the Self-Esteem Maintenance Model (Wann 1993), spectators are likely to engage in violent behavior in an effort to preserve their self-concept following the performance of their team. Based on this model, a fans perceived self-concept is enmeshed within the team, causing them to feel highly identified as a member of that ingroup. Self-esteem has been found to be positively related to degree of identifica- tion with a sports team (Branscombe and Wann 1991). That is, if a team loses and a spectator highly identifies with that team, he is more likely to commit a criminal act in an effort to maintain his identity as a legitimate fan for that team and avenge perceived wrongs. The drive to commit a criminal act in the face of a team loss is especially high if the game has high perceived importance, such as against a rival or a championship game (Wann 1997). These perceptions of self-worth then lead highly identified fans to be more willing to go to great lengths to assist their team, even to the point of injuring an opposing player or coach (Russell and Baenninger 1996). Fanswillingness to injure the opponent to help their team is then


DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 3 exacerbated if it can be committed anonymously (Wann, Carlson, and Schrader 1999 )


exacerbated if it can be committed anonymously (Wann, Carlson, and Schrader 1999) and if it is believed to help their team succeed (Wann et al. 2003). Although not currently addressed in the literature, one might expect a similar finding with nonviolent criminal behavior such that highly identified spectators willing to commit nonviolent criminal acts in an effort to preserve self-esteem and avenge perceived wrongs; however, further research is required in this area to draw definitive conclusions. It could also be explained via a continuum ranging from low to high identified, such that higher identified fans may be more likely to commit a violent crime whereas lower identified fans might be more likely to commit nonviolent crimes. However, with the current lack of research on nonviolent criminal behavior and sport, the latter is merely speculation. During the collegiate football season, a cursory glance at popular media outlets provides copious examples of inappropriate and dangerous fan behavior. In 2003, Ohio State University beat rival University of Michigan in football. Subsequently, the areas surrounding Ohio State University were soon in near havoc with students starting numerous fires (Suggs 2003). Similar victory celebrations at other universities have also quickly turned into riots where fires, injuries, arrests, and destruction were reported (The New York Times 2002). For instance, in 2012, the University of Kentucky Wildcats won the National Championship and 15,000 students and fans took to the streets of Lexington in a celebratory riot. The result was over 40 fires, a dozen arrests, injuries, and one person shot by a fellow rioter (Kindelan 2012). In an attempt to understand these types of behaviors, research indicates that involvement in fights was predicted by reported levels of anger, impulsivity, and sensation-seeking (Russell and Arms 1998). Other research supports previous findings, indicating that fans most likely to act violently are young, single men (Wann et al. 2003; Young 2002) with high team identification (Donahue and Wann 2009; Wann et al. 1999). Therefore, given that college football sporting events provide the modeling of aggressive behavior on the field, an environment that encourages excitement as well as disappointment and ingroup/outgroup comparisons, and attracts young men with high team identification to the stands, it provides a convincing context to study violent and/or criminal spectator behavior. In fact, previous research in collegiate sport indicates that wins or losses at home and upsets led to increases in criminal incidents (Rees and Schnepel 2009), although more research is necessary to better understand other game-related variables that may relate to criminal behavior and the types of criminal behavior most often demonstrated. Previous literature has provided valuable information, but many investigators examined the perceptions of fans rather than actual fan behavior (Donahue and Wann 2009; Hennessy and Schwartz 2007; Wann et al. 2003). Unfortunately, self-reported tendencies might not accurately reflect future behavior given that there are invariably more bullshitters than fighters(Williams 1991:25). Additionally, research has lacked adequate exploration of the link between criminal behavior and collegiate football games until recently (Rees and Schnepel 2009). Finally, researchers have recommended a deeper examination of the trends in North American fan behavior since many studies focus on other countries (Wakefield and Wann 2006). Although the Rees and Schnepel (2009) study was a good first step to fill the aforementioned gap, further research is needed to more fully explain the link between college football and criminal behavior. Specifically, the relationship between violent and/or criminal behavior related to collegiate football and sport-specific factors such as game outcome, competitive nature of team (i.e., ranked or not ranked), and competitive nature of opponent has received little attention, illustrating a clear gap in the literature. Without such information, understanding the connection between sport and criminal behavior remains limited. Fan violence and criminal behavior can lead to property damage and injuries of other fans, athletes, officials, and first responders (Suggs 2003 ); thus, the first purpose of this study was to understand the relationship between criminal behavior and college football game days in a large, Division I conference located in the S outheastern part of the United States. This particular conference was chosen because: (a) it is a large conference with 14 teams that produces more game days, thus more data; (b) five of the top 25 rivalries in college sport are housed in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), including the number one rivalry (Rappoport and Wilner 2007); and (c) the SEC is historically very competitive with a very dedicated fan base. For instance, fans from Florida, an


4 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. SEC school, described the importance of their attendance at football games


SEC school, described the importance of their attendance at football games as not just sitting watching a football game(Gibson, Willming, and Holdnak 2002:398). Rather, attending Gator games meant spending time with family, friends, and community, as well as participating in a storied tradition and upholding the reputation of the university. A second purpose of the current study was to examine specific game-related variables (Madensen and Eck 2008) associated with criminal behavior on college football game days. The study addressed two main research questions. First, is there a difference in frequency of criminal offenses reported by local police departments on college football game days compared to non- game days? If so, is there a change in the type of criminal offenses reported on college football game days compared to non-game days? Second, what game-related variables (i.e., game location, game outcome, ranked or unranked home team, ranked or unranked opponent) are associated with changes in overall reported criminal offenses? Further, does the significance of game-related variables differ with specific types of criminal offenses? Given the Rees and Schnepel (2009) findings, a hypothesis for the first research question was that criminal behavior would increase on college football game days, especially when the team won at home. Due to the exploratory nature of this study and sparse existing research, additional hypotheses were not offered.


Study design and data collection

Archival data were collected to analyze the frequency and trends of reported criminal offenses in the home cities of member universities in the SEC during the 2012 college football regular season. Data were collected from campus and city police departments of SEC member institutions using public records. All 28 city police departments and campus police departments were contacted. Seventeen of those departments, representing 11 of the 14 SEC schools, provided adequate data to be included in the analysis, resulting in a 61% response rate. Criminal behaviors were categorized according to the criminal offense categories of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) National Incidence-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) database, with the exception of a category labeled domesticthat was created to compare present findings to previous research findings on reports of domestic abuse during the 2009 World Cup in England (Brimicombe and Cafe 2012). The NIBRS is a national database overseen by the FBI and part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. According to the NIBRS, offenses are also categorized as either A or B offenses (see Table 1), where incident data is available for group A offenses and arrest data are available for group B offenses. Data was collected on the frequency of specific offenses; therefore, no identifying information including property, victim, offender, or arrestee was collected.


Institutional Review Board approval for the collection of secondary, archival data was obtained. City and campus police departments for each school in the SEC were contacted via e-mail or phone communication to make an open records request. Consenting departments then provided the data, which was entered by one of the four authors or one research assistant. To establish interrater reliability, all five researchers input one months worth of data for the same non-SEC Division I school with 333 total incidents for comparison. Intraclass correlations revealed acceptable interrater reliability at ICC = .998 (F (56, 244) = 2917.936, p < .001). Once acceptable interrater reliability was established, frequency data were collected for each of the criminal offenses reported for public record in participating SEC member institution home cities on each day during the August 15, 2012 to December 15, 2012 time period. For each department, a total of 123 observations were collected, resulting in 2,091 total daysworth of data. Days were defined as 12:00:00 a.m. to 11:59:59 p.m. After reviewing a sample (one school) of the data, finding a natural break between criminal behaviors varied by up to eight hours between non-game days and game days. Assuming that different schools have different cultures, finding a natural break for each would further compound the data by introducing an inconsistency in reporting between schools. Therefore, although it

Table 1. NIBRS groupings and categories.


Table 1. NIBRS groupings and categories. DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 5 Group A (1) Arson (2) Assault offenses


Group A

(1) Arson (2) Assault offenses (i.e., aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation) (3) Bribery (4) Burglary/breaking and entering (5) Counterfeiting/forgery (6) Destruction/damage/vandalism of property (7) Drug/narcotic offenses (i.e., drug/narcotic violations, drug equipment violations) (8) Embezzlement (9) Extortion/blackmail (10) Fraud offenses (i.e., false pretenses/swindle/confidence game, credit card/automatic teller machine fraud, impersonation, welfare fraud, wire fraud) (11) Gambling offenses (i.e., betting/wagering, operating/promoting/assisting gambling, gambling equipment violations, sports tampering) (12) Homicide offenses (i.e., murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, negligent manslaughter, justifiable homicide) (13) Kidnaping/abduction (14) Larceny/theft offenses (i.e., pocket-picking, purse-snatching, shoplifting, theft from building, theft from coin-operated machine or device, theft from motor vehicle, theft of motor vehicle parts or accessories, all other larceny) (15) Motor vehicle theft (16) Pornography/obscene material (17) Prostitution offenses (i.e., prostitution, assisting or promoting prostitution) (18) Robbery (19) Sex offenses, forcible (i.e., forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling) (20) Sex offenses, nonforcible (i.e., incest, statutory rape) (21) Stolen property offenses (22) Weapon law violations

Group B

(1) Bad checks (2) Curfew/loitering/vagrancy violations (3) Disorderly conduct (4) Driving under the influence (5) Drunkenness (6) Family offenses, nonviolent (7) Liquor law violations (8) Peeping tom (9) Runaway (10) Trespass of real property (11) All other offenses

was possible that social activities, and resulting criminal behavior, could extend past the midnight cut time, it was impossible to establish a natural cutoff time for each day that was consistent across schools. For standardization of data across days and across schools, a midnight cutoff time was determined to be the most appropriate. For the entire sample, a total of 204 games were played, with 196 (96.07%) of those game occurring on a Saturday and the remaining eight games played on Thursdays (n = 2; 1%), Fridays (n = 4; 2%), and Sundays (n = 2; 1%). Data were collected to retrospectively analyze how college football game days were related to reported criminal offenses. Specific game-related variables of interest included the location of the game (i.e., home, away, or neutral), current host team ranking, opponent ranking, game outcome (i.e., win or loss) and previous game outcome. These variables were analyzed in association with the dependent variables: total criminal offenses reported, group A and group B offenses, specific NIBRS categories of offenses reported, and the additional category, domesticto include domestic assault/battery offenses.


6 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. Data analysis To understand the nature of the relationship between college


Data analysis

To understand the nature of the relationship between college football game days in the SEC and incidents of criminal behavior, statistical analyses included multilevel linear models to answer the first research question and subquestion. Because data were nested by school (i.e., each school covaried by city population, average city income, school population), the use of multilevel linear modeling (MLM), a regression-based techni- que, was necessary to determine an accurate picture of the data. Multilevel linear modeling is desirable for these analyses given that it is robust to unequal cell sizes and controls for nested effects (Tabachnick and Fidell 2007), which occurred given that the number of non-game days far exceeded the number of game days during the period of this investigation and that the data covaried by city population, average income, and school population. Model fit for MLM was assessed using Schwarzs Bayesian Criterion (BIC) as it is more conservative than the 2 log-likelihood, accounting for large sample sizes with few parameters (Field 2009). Multilevel linear modeling was also used in subquestion one, where separate multilevel linear models were generated for each of the specific NIBRS categories. A factorial analysis of variance (ANOVA) was performed to examine specific game-related variables associated with criminal behavior, addressing research question two and a factorial multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) addressed subquestion two. ANOVA and factorial MANOVA were desirable over linear and multiple regression given that predictor variables (i.e., opponent rank status, outcome, game location) were categorical, rather than continuous (Field 2009).


Three hundred and four Saturday observations were made during the time period of August 15, 2012 to December 15, 2012. Games were not played on 35.53% (n = 108) of Saturday observations. Although not ideal, examining non-game day versus game day Saturdays provided a measure of control, whereby possible confounders (e.g., variables related to weekend versus weekday) could be controlled and the true effect of game day could be observed. An ANOVA of criminal behavior on game day Saturdays (M = 28.80, SD = 27.24) versus non-game day Saturdays (M = 22.36, SD = 23.18) was significant (F (1, 2888) = 4.31; p = .04). This finding indicated that the game, itself, rather than variables related to day of the week, was in fact associated with increased criminal behavior and further analysis was warranted. For the entire sample, 45,200 total criminal offenses were reported over the 2,091 days worth of data. The mean criminal incidents reported for any given day of the week that was not a game day for the entire sample was 20.79 ( SD = 20.83, maximum = 89); on game days, the mean was 29.15 ( SD = 27.92, maximum = 130). To determine if the mean difference (8.36 reported criminal incidents) was significant, multilevel linear m odeling was performed. As a first step, the grand mean for all criminal behaviors was calculated for the entire sample ( t = 5.26, p < .001). Subsequently, school was entered as a nesting variable ( F (1, 11) = 26.32, p < .001, N = 2091) to account for covariances in city population, averag e city income, and school population, indicating that the difference in reported criminal behavior between college game days and non-game days was significant and was nested by school (Wald Z = 2.09, p = .04). Alternate models were then created to test whether intercept and/or slope variance improved the model. Results indicated that

the intercepts varied across cases (var( u ) = 211.74, χ 2 (1) = 803.97 p < .01), but the slopes did not


vary across cases (var( u 1j ) = 18.25, χ 2 (1) = -5.231, p > .05), and the slopes and intercepts did not significantly covary (var( u 0j , u 1j ) = 18.64, χ 2 (1) = -7.17, p > .05; see Formula 1 for best fit model


Formula 1:

Y ij ¼

21: 09 0 þ 211 : 74 oj þ 8: 26 1 X ij þ 309 :18 ij

Practically, the difference indicated an average 40.21% (M difference = 8.36) increase in reported criminal behavior on college football game days. For some schools, this increase was much higher, up to a 97.14% ( M difference = 24.80) increase. However, it should be noted that although total


DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 7 criminal behavior increased for every school on college football game days, this increase


criminal behavior increased for every school on college football game days, this increase was not significant for five of the eleven schools (45.45%, see Table 2 ). Notably, the model explained 16.37% of the variance in criminal behaviors on college football game days for all schools, as compared to non-game days. Because criminal behavior may have been influenced by a population influx on game days, game day attendance and game location were analyzed. Individual ANOVAs indicated that game day attendance did vary by current team rank status ( F (1, 3.63 e9 ) = 11.72, p = .001) and opponent rank status ( F (1, 2.71 e9 ) = 8.64, p = .004), such that when the current or opposing team were ranked, game day attendance increased. However, game day attendance did not vary by game outcome ( F = (1, 9.63 e9 ) = 1.48, p = .23) nor whether the opponent was a member of the SEC conference ( F = (1, 9.33 e9 ) = 2.88, p = .09). Combined, these findin gs may indicate that spectator interest and investment may vary based on tea m ranking. However, it may also be related to structural constraints. That is, teams that tradit ionally rank higher in national polls tend to have larger stadiums and are able to seat more spectators than teams that do not traditionally rank highly in national polls. The finding that crimi nal behavior was not affected by game site (i.e., home vs. away vs. neutral site; F (3, 4,173) = 1.91, p = .13) supports the conclusion that population influx did not account for increases in criminal b ehavior. Moreover, game day attendance was an insignificant covariate for all criminal behavior on game days versus non-game days ( F (1, 1,080) = 2.32, p = .13), indicating that mere populati on influx did not account for observed increases in criminal behavior. To investigate the effect of college football game days on specific criminal behaviors, multilevel models were created for each type of criminal offense, as outlined by the NIBRS. Consequently, significant increases were observed in total group A offenses, arson, assault offenses, destruction offenses, drug offenses, total group B offenses, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence (DUI), drunkenness, and all other criminal incidents not otherwise categorized on college football game days (Table 3) for the entire sample. However, it is worth noting that several individual schools recorded increases in other specific criminal behaviors not identified in the entire sample, including burglary, fraud offenses, kidnapping/abduction, larceny/theft offenses, and robbery offenses. Moreover, the magnitude of those increases varied greatly by school. For instance, kidnapping/abduction increased at one school by 361% whereas theft only increased by 26% at another school. For the entire sample, arson increased by 242% on college football game days when compared to non-game days. Similar increases on college football game days were observed for drunkenness (283%), disorderly conduct (123%), and DUI (100%), followed by assault (45%), all other criminal incidents not otherwise categorized (35%), drug offenses (28%), and destruction offenses (25%), although those increases varied by school. Overall, group A offenses increased by 19% and group B offenses by 63%. In an effort to address the second study purpose, a factorial ANOVA was initially run to determine what game day variables contributed to differences in criminal behavior on college

Table 2. Changes in all criminal behavior on college football game days by school.


M non-game day

M game day

% increase


df, error







1, 2,121







1, 285







1, 1,668







1, 1,001







1, 630







1, 213







1, 3







1, 4,350







1, 6,661







1, 2,361







1, 12


Notes. *Significant at p < .05. **Significant at p < .01.


8 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. Table 3. Estimates of fixed effects and parameters of individual multilevel


Table 3. Estimates of fixed effects and parameters of individual multilevel linear models for specific NIBRS categories.

NIBRS category

χ 2 (4)


df , error


SE b


Group A offenses Arson Assault offenses Bribery offenses Burglary offenses Counterfeiting/forgery Destruction offenses Drug offenses Fraud offenses Homicide offenses Kidnapping/abduction Larceny/theft offenses Robbery Sex offenses Weapon law violations Group B offenses Bad checks Curfew/loitering/vagrancy violations Disorderly conduct Driving under the influence Drunkenness Peeping tom Runaway Trespass of real property All other offenses Domestic offenses, violent



1, 2080







1, 2087

. 00011

. 00008





1, 2078







1, 2091






1, 2080






1, 9






1, 2080









1, 2079









1, 11






1, 2080






1, 2081

.28 4

.36 4




1, 2080






1, 12






1, 14






1, 13






1, 10



. 004**



1, 2080

.15 3

.74 4




1, 2080






1, 10









1, 9









1, 11







1, 75


.01 4 .19 2





1, 2080

.90 3




1, 2080






1, 10



. 02*



1, 13





Notes. *Significant at p < .05, **Significant at p < .01. Not an NIBRS category; category created for comparison to previous research. Embezzlement, extortion/blackmail, gambling, motor vehicle theft, pornography, prostitution, non-violent sex offenses, stolen property, non-violent family offenses, and liquor law violations were not included given that the number of reported cases over the time period was inadequate to estimate MLM.

football game days versus non-game days. When considering all NIBRS criminal behavior categories, an interaction of host team ranking, opponent team ranking, and game outcome was related to criminal behavior in the host city ( F (1, 9142) = 20.07, p < .001, N = 2,091 [ n no game = 1,881, n game = 210] ). Specifically, if the host team was not ranked, nor was the opponent, whether the host team won or lost, cri minal incidents were reported at an average of 25.04 ( SD = 21.70, n = 51) and 27.61 ( SD = 27.43, n = 23), respectively. However, if the opponent was ranked, and the unranked host team lost, the mean number of criminal incidents reported increased to 33.88 ( SD = 30.23, n = 25), but if the opponent was ranked and the unranked host team won, criminal incidents reported dropped by 45% ( M = 9.41, SD = 8.02, n = 17). Alternatively, if the host team was ranked, but the opponent was not, and the host team lost, criminal incidents reported increased by 263% to 75.56 ( SD = 16.52, n = 9) versus 29.22 ( SD = 29.39, n = 45) reported criminal offenses if the ranked host team won. If both teams were ranked, whether the host team won or lost, mean reported criminal offenses were 26.86 ( SD = 26.76, n = 22) and 33.31 ( SD = 31.96, n = 13), respectively. The interaction between host team current ranking, opponent ranking, and game outcome accounted for 4.4% of the variance in criminal incidents on college football game days (R 2 = .044, power = .994). Given that not all types of criminal behavior varied equally, a factorial MANOVA was employed to determine what specific game-related variables were associated more closely with certain types of criminal behavior. Table 4 presents the findings from this analysis. Notably, destruction offenses were associated with host city rank and game outcome, but not opponent rank; disorderly conduct was associated with opponent rank and game outcome, but not host city rank.


DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 9 Discussion Overall, the results show a significant increase (40%) in the number of



Overall, the results show a significant increase (40%) in the number of criminal incidents reported on SEC college football game days when compared to non-game days, supporting our first hypoth- esis and previous research showing an increase of criminal behavior on game days (e.g., Rees and Schnepel 2009 ; Spaaij 2008 ; Suggs 2003 ). In fact, college football game days accounted for 16% of the variance in criminal behaviors at SEC member institutions, demonstrating that college football game days have a moderately positive relationship with criminal behavior. More specifically, increases in assault, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, and drunkenness were all observed, supporting previous literature (Lanter 2011 ; Rees and Schnepel 2009 ; Simons and Taylor 1992 ). Additional increases in arson, destruction, and drug and narcotics violations indicate future areas of research. Regardless, part of the increase in criminal behavior on SEC football game days might be due to increased presence of police and security at the stadium and throughout the city/town during game days because heightened security would lead to an increased chance of being caught commit- ting a criminal act (Rees and Schnepel 2009 ). There was also likely a greater number of people gathered in a city/town on game days when compared to other days. The increased number of people present in the town, whether visiting for the game or not, might also naturally increase the number of criminal incidents present (e.g., Gibson et al. 2002). However, game day attendance, one variable representing an increase in population on game days, was not significantly related to criminal behavior, indicating that the game, itself, not the increase in population, was to blame for increases in criminal behavior in the present study. Given that this finding is a departure from previous research, future research should continue to investigate whether population density or the event, itself, is more important in relation to criminal behavior. Finally, researchers have argued that increases in criminal incidents surrounding sporting events might not be related to the event itself,

but rather the excitement, disappointment and flow of adrenalin resulting from watching a


play [that] may exacerbate existing tensions within a relationship and result in lost tempers(Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 :33). The SEC culture, reinforced to spectators by mechanisms of the Social Learning Theory and Self-Esteem Maintenance Model, might support this notion of increased excitement, disappointment, and adrenaline given more significant rivalries (Rappoport and Wilner 2007 ), and dedicated, highly identified fans (Wann 1997 ). Whereas an understanding of overall criminal behavior is important to examine in comparison to previous findings, one unique contribution of this study was its exploration of all specific criminal behaviors reported by campus or city police departments in 11 cities. This dataset was complete for 11 of the 14 schools, allowing for a more detailed look at specific criminal behaviors that might be most affected by college football game days in the SEC. Specific criminal behaviors on game days that differed significantly from non-game days were arson, assault, destruction, drug and narcotics violations, disorderly conduct, DUI, drunkenness, and all other offenses. Of those, increases in incidents reported on game days ranged from 19% to 361%, depending on the type of offense. Moreover, specific departments reported increases in the previously mentioned offenses, as well as

Table 4. Significant multivariate effects by NIBRS category of criminal behavior on college football game days.

NIBRS category


Wilk s λ ( df)




Group A offenses Arson Assault offenses Destruction offenses Drug offenses Group B offenses Disorderly conduct

Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Host City Rank * Outcome Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Opponent Rank * Outcome

17.89 (2)


1, 764


8.10 (8)


1, 1


8.10 (8)


1, 161

< .001**

13.06 (8)


1, 17


8.10 (8)


1, .25


17.89 (2)


1, 4620

< .001**

4.54 (8)


1, 4


Drunkenness offenses Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome

8.10 (8)


1, 181

< .001**

DUI offenses All other offenses

Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome Host City Rank * Opponent Rank * Game Outcome

8.10 (8)


1, 23

< .001**

8.10 (8)


1, 1554

< .001**

Note. * Significant at p < .05. ** Significant at p < .01


10 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. those that differed significantly by department but not for the entire


those that differed significantly by department but not for the entire sample, indicating a practical significance for law enforcement personnel and school administrators. Interestingly, contrary to previous research (e.g., Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 ), domestic violence did not significantly differ on SEC football gamedays, requiring further investigation to understand the discrepancy. Based on the literature, it seems as if a number of factors surrounding game days could contribute to the significant increase in criminal incidents (e.g., Rees and Schnepel 2009). For the present study, the interaction of rankings (both teams) and outcome were the greatest predictors of criminal behavior, specifically for arson, assault, drug and narcotics violations, drunkenness, DUI, and all other offenses. Curiously, opponent ranking was not predictive of destruction offenses and home ranking was not predictive of disorderly conduct offenses, introducing future areas of inquiry. Together, these findings partially support similar findings by Rees and Schnepel ( 2009 ). However, a major departure of note is that game location (i.e., home or away) was not a significant predictor of criminal behavior in the SEC, providing evidence that increases in population density on game days is not a significant predictor of violent and/or criminal acts, and that the game, itself, is. Additionally, contrary to previous research (e.g., Rees and Schnepel 2009), present findings indicate that criminal behavior actually decreased (by 45%) after upsetting a ranked team and increased (by 263%) after being upset, regardless of where the game is played. As discussed, the SEC is a highly competitive conference; so competitive, in fact, that 10 out of 14 schools were ranked in the Associated Press of Bowl Championship Series Top 25 polls at some point during the 2012 season (ESPN 2013). Therefore, losing to an unranked opponent may cause significant embarrassment in such a highly competitive conference, leading fans who highly identify with the team to commit more criminal acts, findings echoed in previous research (Berkowitz 1988; Simons and Taylor 1992). In support of the Self-Esteem Maintenance Model, this finding reinforces the influence of a loss on highly identified fanswillingness to commit criminal acts. In extension of the Self-Esteem Maintenance Model, findings from the current study that nonviolent criminal behavior increases following a loss indicate that highly identified fan self-esteem is preserved through both violent and nonviolent means. Whether this is evidence of a continuum of criminal activity on the basis of degree of fan identification or merely as another means of self-concept preservation requires further inquiry. Moreover, the current findings that criminal behavior was roughly commensurate for game days and non-game days when (a) an unranked team played another unranked team, regardless of outcome, (b) an unranked team lost to a ranked team, or (c) a ranked team beat an unranked team may indicate that accurate rankings may buffer incidents of criminal behavior. The finding that winning an upset decreased reports of criminal behavior to approximately 45% less than on non-game days may also support an additional hypothesis that winning and rankings interact to buffer against criminal incidents on college football game days. However, further research is needed to confirm these findings. That criminal incidents increased by approximately 412 incidents on game days when the result is consistent with the rankings and expected outcomes but increased by approximately 54 incidents after being upset is of practical significance to police departments and school administrators for criminal behavior prevention and control efforts. The Social Learning Theory (Bandura 1978) and the Self-Esteem Maintenance Model (Wann 1993) provide valuable insight into explanations of violent and/or criminal fan behavior. The current findings support suppositions of each model. For instance, watching a collision sport such as football could prime observers to act more aggressively, both during and after the game (Smith 1976; Wann and Branscombe 1990). The finding that arson, assault, and destruction violations increased on game days in the current study provides support for this supposition. Moreover, the current studys finding of a significant increase in criminal behaviors on game days versus non-game days, when controlling for the day of the week (i.e., Saturday), supports the hypothesis that the game, itself, with all of its aggressive primes, may be to blame for the increase in criminal behavior, rather than other non-game-related variables (e.g., increase in population density). It is reasonable to suppose that similar findings might not be found for college gymnastic or swimming meet days, although this would be a valuable area for future research to explore. Additionally, fans associate with their supported team, which provides them a sense of identity


DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 11 so “ the team is thereby able to elicit feelings of pride or


so the team is thereby able to elicit feelings of pride or shame in its performance from among the fans(Lee 1985:38). Within the competitive culture of the SEC, if a team is unable to beat an unranked team, fans might experience a drop in self-esteem significant enough to drive them toward criminal behavior in order to reestablish their sense of strength and dominance. This may explain why criminal incidents increased most after ranked teams lost to unranked opponents and why they decreased substantially when an unranked team beat a ranked team.


Although every attempt was made to collect data from both city and campus police departments fo r each university s home town, researchers were unable to contact some departments, and others were unwilling to provide data to non-residents of the state. Therefore, not all schools in the SEC were represented in the current analysis. In addition, different police departments use various incident classification systems. To control for these differences, NIBRS categories were used to streamline data analysis and interrater reliability was established to determine consistency of coding by the researchers; however, this system did not always coincide with city or campus police department s classifications. Therefore, using the NIBRS categories might have led to more incidents falling in the All other incidents category instead of with like-offenses, leading to inflation within the all other type of criminal behavior and deflation of other specific offenses. Had an incident classification been more consistent across departments, other incidents might have changed more significantly. Finally, all data were categorized by day, as reported on police reports defined from 12:00:00 a.m. to 11:59:59 p.m. However, criminal behavior after a game is likely to continue beyond midnight. Additionally, reporting of criminal behavior might be delayed one or two days (Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 ), creating an inaccurate portrayal of when incidents occurred.


The current study has a number of unique strengths. First, this is the first study, to our knowledge, that compared data within one conference. The data showed that the culture of a school or town could influence criminal incidents; as such, comparing schools from different conferences could create a confounding variable (e.g., Rees and Schnepel 2009 ), which might influence the results. Additionally, this study considered the frequency of all criminal behavior rather than focusing on only one behavior such as domestic violence (Brimicombe and Cafe 2012 ). Research, to this point, has been founded within theories of spectator aggression and violence, but given that not all criminal behaviors included in this study were violent in nature, the present study introduces a potentially novel opportunity to further theory and research development. Moreover, although existing anec- dotal evidence might suggest that certain incidents increase during game days, this study objectively considered each behavior reported by police departments to examine potential differences. This objective analysis of all behaviors led to a more specific analysis of criminal offenses to provide richer data for criminal behavior which certain police departments might be able to predict and manage. Finally, most research on sport and aggression or violence studies the behavior of fans (e.g., Russell 1995 ; Wann et al. 2005); the present study provides evidence that criminal behavior might not be limited to fans, but could impact surrounding residents of university communities as well.

Future directions

The results of the current study can guide future research in a number of ways. While the SEC is a unique conference, other National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) conferences have distinct cultures that might show different trends of criminal incidents. For instance, the SEC allows the sale of alcohol at games, whereas the Big XII conference does not. By comparing findings of the current


12 A. COKER-CRANNEY ET AL. study with findings of future studies examining criminal behavior on college


study with findings of future studies examining criminal behavior on college football game days in other conferences, different trends in criminal behavior may be observed. It would be worthwhile to gain a better understanding of criminal incident trends in other NCAA football conferences to compare similarities and differences. This information might also provide a better understanding of factors that play a role in influencing criminal behavior. Furthermore, other in-depth analyses could take the current results one step further. For example, structural equation modeling might provide researchers and practitioners a model that shows the most significant factors that predict increases in criminal incidents on college football game days. Alternatively, examining the role of proximity of the criminal behavior to the university or other variables might further enhance our understanding of what variables contribute to the increases of criminal behavior observed in this, and other, studies. Researchers should also continue exploring the relationship between collegiate sport and criminal behavior by analyzing other sports such as basketball, volleyball, and swimming to see if different types of sports (e.g., non-contact versus contact, individual versus team, fall versus spring) might influence criminal behavior differently. Finally, the current finding that winning an upset actually decreased criminal incidents below non-game day levels and that five of the eleven schools in the current study did not experience statistically significant overall increases in criminal behavior may indicate that sport can be protective in some circumstance. Therefore, future research is necessary to investigate how college game days may be a buffer for criminal behavior. Although most, if not all, city and campus police departments anecdotally reported a dramatic increase in criminal offenses on college football game days, the current study created a tangible analysis to not only explain which specific criminal acts increase, but by how much, and which factors are most related to each increase. Communities and universities spend a significant amount of money on increased security to prevent riots (Russell 2004); the current findings might help cities and universities better allocate those funds for specific incidents that increase on college game days (e.g., setting up more DUI check points, patrolling local areas for larceny and theft, increasing dispatch units when the local football team is ranked and will be playing an unranked opponent at home). Ultimately, the goal of this research is to better understand the nature of the relationship between college football game days and criminal behavior in the SEC to enhance the knowledge base to prevent criminal behavior and protect emergency responders, students and members of local university communities safe from criminal behavior. By improving our understanding of factors related to criminal behavior surrounding sporting events, we get closer to understanding the best way to discourage and limit criminal incidents.


On average, there was a 40% increase in criminal behavior on college football game days; however, this increase varied by school and category of criminal behavior. Specifically, arson, drunkenness, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence were most elevated on game days, depending on the school. Thus, the relationship between college football game days and criminal behavior is stronger for some schools than others. Moreover, the interaction between the home teams current rank, opponent ranking, and game outcome was most predictive of the difference in criminal behavior from non-game days to game days. Therefore, school administrations and police departments interested in controlling criminal offenses will have different needs, depending on the school and important game-related variables. Together, these results provide additional support for the Social Learning Theory as well as the Self-Esteem Maintenance Model, but research focused on more specific variables of interest to these theories is needed to further test them. Although all data of criminal incidents were collected for the entire 123 days of the 2012 fall semester, the frequency for several incidents was very low whereas the frequency for other incidents were very high, which likely washed out some of the effects. Regardless, the present study contributed to the literature by introducing a more comprehensive study of all reported criminal incidents over an entire season. These findings thus provide an understudied focus for future research.


DEVIANT BEHAVIOR 13 Notes on contributors ASHLEY COKER-CRANNEY recieved her Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology


Notes on contributors

ASHLEY COKER-CRANNEY recieved her Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from the College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences at West Virginia University. She received her M.A. in Counseling from West Virginia University and her M.S. in Exercise and Sport Science with an emphasis in Psychosocial Aspects of Sport from the University of Utah. Ashley currently works as a graduate research assistant in the Department of Sport Sciences at West Virginia University for an insurance-funded, state-wide weight management program. She also consults with athletes and teams to enhance sport performance and satisfaction. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys exploring wild and wonderful West Virginia with her family.

CHELSEA B. WOODING received her Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology and M.A. in Counseling from West Virginia University, as well as her M.S. in Kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton. She is currently working with dancers and other performing artists, while also supervising Sport and Exercise Psychology students applied experiences.

MEGAN BYRD is a Sport and Exercise Psychology Doctoral Candidate at West Virginia University. She is a recent graduate from the Counseling Master s degree program at WVU. Originally from Florence, KY, she received her Masters degree in Sport Behavior and Performance from Miami University and her Bachelor s degree in Psychology and Sociology from Eastern Kentucky University. She currently works as a graduate teaching assistant. Her research interests are emotional impacts of concussion, sport aggression, anger, and perfectionism.

PETER L. KADUSHIN is an Assistant Professor of Exercise and Sport Science at Western State Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado and a member of the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. He received his Ph.D. in Sport and Exercise Psychology from West Virginia University in 2014. When hes not helping performers become happier, healthier human beings, he can be found out in the mountains enjoying the sunshine.


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