The presidents of McPher?son College and Tabor College are expecting ?just another game? when the Bulldogs and Bluejays meet at McPherson Stadium Saturday afternoon.
The game will mark the first gridiron meeting between the two programs since the beating death last fall of Tabor College student-athlete Brandon Brown, 26, and the eventual arrest of two McPher?son College student-athletes.
In the aftermath of the incident, last year?s football game between the two colleges was canceled by the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Con?ference in consultation with the two schools.
McPherson College Presi?dent Michael Schneider said students and spectators will notice nothing out of the ordinary on Saturday.
?For the game, we?re excited the students get to play again, and before the game we?ll center them with a prayer,? he said. ?We?re going to keep it pretty simple.
?That?s not to say there hasn?t been a lot of work done on both campuses to heal and kind of reconcile what happened,? he added. ?But we?ve done it real privately. We don?t have any concerns about safety at the moment.?
Tabor College President Jules Glanzer agreed.
?McPherson has been working hard to have some positive things come out of this,? Glanzer said ?I appreciate Michael.?Our relationship has really grown as a result of this.
?We?re two institutions?we want a healthy rivalry, but don?t want it to be something that has negative consequences. I respect him and appreciate how we?ve been able to work together on it.?
The incident last year occurred Sept. 16 in a fight outside a party in McPhe?rson. Brown died of his injuries six days later at a Wichita hospital.
Dequinte Oshea Flour?noy, 20, later pled no contest to a reduced felony charge of aiding and abetting in aggravated battery. Alton Frank???lin, 20, was found not guilty of second-degree murder in an April jury trial.
The incident drew regional and even national media attention.
The two presidents agree the situation at both institutions is far different today than it was at this time last year.
?We spent a lot of time over the last year with our student bodies, trying to heal and understand,? Schneider said ?We?re working on our campuses to be sensitive to one another from the standpoint of student behavior.?
Combined with the death of a McPherson College student in a bicycle accident later that fall, ?Last fall was a real tragic time on campus,? Schneider said. ?I think now people want to be helpful. I think it?s good that we?re playing football.?
The two presidents said their campuses have evolved and grown with the passing of time.
?The incident a year ago is passed, we?ve put it behind us and we?re moving on, ? Glanzer said. ?Many of the students that were really close to Brandon are no longer at Tabor.?
The two presidents said coaches have been preparing athletes in all sports for competitive encounters, but they understand that the first football game will be especially important.
Both presidents plan to attend the game.
?I think both schools are a little bit sensitive because we both know we?re going to be under the microscope,? Schneider said.
?If anything happens, they?re going to point at us?even though Jules and I, and both of the teams and coaches, would assert there?s not a vicious rivalry, or that the incident (last fall) had anything to do with a rivalry.?
Added Glanzer: ?For the teams? sake, we want it to be as normal a day and game as possible for them. We will be watching our students and being vigilant and doing our due diligence, so we kind of have got our radar up a little bit higher.?
An incident earlier this fall indicated that sensitivities may have softened, but are not far from the surface.
After Tabor traveled to McPherson for a volleyball game Sept. 11, a report circulated via Twitter that some McPherson students chanted ?Where is Brandon?? during the game.
Both presidents said they aggressively investigated the allegation and found it to be without merit.
?There was no chanting,? Schneider said. ?We reviewed all the tape. Jules was in the audience, and we had probably 12 administrators there. Nobody heard chanting.?
Glanzer said they have deduced that a spectator near the Tabor bench may have made a reference to a ?Brandon.?
?Evidently two of our bench players heard it,? Glanzer said. ?The truth is, there was the possibility that there were at least six Bran?dons in the student body that they could have been asking about.
?It was tweeted and there was kind of a reaction to it.?
Added Schneider, ?We?ve been talking to our coaches and all of our teams, to be really sensitive. There?s a lot of new students on both campuses, like there are every year, who may or may not be familiar (with last year?s tragedy). We want to move on, but we need to be really sensitive to what happened.?
Glanzer said, ?The football team sees this as just another game in this season, which is a very good season for them. They have some very clear goals. Those goals are to win a conference championship and to be ranked high enough to be able to host a playoff game, and hopefully advance.?