Big Red removed from title game

Abbey Brown

Rumors were running rampant around Western’s campus and on the Internet that campus police and Sun Belt Conference officials had tackled Big Red to the ground strangling him.

According to Big Red himself, Beaver Dam graduate student Wade Raymer, those rumors can be kicked to the curb, just like he was kicked out of the final game of the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

Chris Jackson, Sun Belt Conference assistant commissioner, said Raymer was warned six times to follow the rules or he would be kicked out.

He was reprimanded for directing Western’s band, going past the half-court line during half-time, taking a picture with a child, directing the wave, straying too far from cheerleaders and finally crowd surfing, Raymer said.

He said he had a problem with how restrictive and inconsistent the conference’s rules were.

“The Sun Belt Conference officials seem to think I’m supposed to stand in one little spot and clap my hands,” Raymer said.

He decided to go crowd surfing with about five minutes on the clock.

Conference officials then asked him to leave the game, said campus police Capt. Eugene Hoofer. They grabbed his arm, but he broke away from them and took off running, he said.

Conference officials then asked campus police to escort him out, Hoofer said.

Once outside, he said Raymer began complaining that he couldn’t breathe, and he fell to the ground. Sgt. Kerry Hatchett tried to help him take the costume’s head off.

“Everyone was twisting it around and saying we were choking him,” Hoofer said. “It just looked like that. The officer was just trying to help.”

Raymer agreed with the police’s account.

“The cop didn’t strangle me,” he said. “He was just trying to do his job. I wasn’t harmed.”

President Gary Ransdell said he “firmly” required an explanation from conference officials about why Raymer was kicked out.

The restrictions placed on mascots made Raymer’s job challenging, Ransdell said.

“Big Red in Diddle Arena has been used to having free reign in the arena,” he said. “Big Red probably pressed the envelope a little too much. … Sun Belt officials felt like they needed to ask Big Red to leave Big Red’s home… They had to help him leave.”

Raymer said he wasn’t even aware of the rules he was breaking. He said he didn’t receive a copy of the rules and no one went over them with him.

Jackson said these rules are in place to make things fair.

“This wasn’t a WKU event, it was a Sun Belt tournament event,” Jackson said.

He said the conference e-mailed team manuals, which contain mascot regulations, to all of the schools and the athletic directors.

“We warned him,” Jackson said. “It shouldn’t have been a surprise.”

Big Red was the only mascot kicked out of a Sun Belt game this year, and no mascots were kicked out of the conference’s games last year.

“Everyone else complied,” Jackson said.

Athletic Director Wood Selig said the mascot restrictions should be looked at before Western hosts the tournament again next year.

Hoofer said Raymer wasn’t the only person kicked out of the game Tuesday night — three or four other people were also escorted out.

Officer Lee McKinney’s ribs were bruised after he was shoved against a rail and Officer Larry Dvorak was pushed down a flight of stairs flat on his back by a group of students, Hoofer said.

“It’s a shame these things happened,” he said. “The tournament went great until it was pretty much over.”

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