Villanova is greasing those poles: How Radnor is readying for NCAA championship game

Wildcats fans celebrate on the streets of Radnor following Villanova’s 2016 NCAA win.

Taking a page out of Philly’s Super Bowl playbook on how to deal with jubilant fans whose excitement, inexplicably, propels them up street poles and light fixtures, authorities in and around Villanova University are greasing poles in anticipation of Monday night’s NCAA championship men’s basketball game.

Radnor Police Lt. Chris Flanagan, whose department is the lead agency in charge of crowd control, said poles were being greased around the university, which straddles Radnor and Lower Merion townships. Flanagan wasn’t sure if Crisco, hydraulic fluid or another substance was being used.

“I don’t know what they’re using but some poor guy from Villanova has to smear it all over the place,” he said. “We just don’t want anybody falling, that’s the biggest problem.”

Philadelphia made national headlines during the Eagles’ Super Bowl run earlier this year when police slathered Crisco on poles prior to the NFC championship game. When pole climbers were undeterred by the Crisco, the department switched to slathering hydraulic fluid ahead of the Super Bowl.

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In 2016, when Villanova won the NCAA championship for the first time in more than 30 years, the crowds that poured into the streets around the school were relatively well-behaved, Flanagan said. But that doesn’t mean the night wasn’t without its incidents.

Police made more than 20 arrests, most of which were for disorderly conduct, but officers also arrested at least four people for assaulting police horses, Flanagan said. As a result, the department would charge anyone who assaults a police horse with a felony, he said.

“It isn’t funny to hit an animal anyways but there are serious repercussions if you hit a police animal,” he said. “You’re not allowed to taunt them either.”

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Punching a horse — or any animal — shouldn’t be a thing, but again, this is the Philadelphia area where celebrations sometimes take a dark turn. Two weeks in a row this January, Eagles fans were arrested for allegedly punching police horses at Lincoln Financial Field during the team’s playoff games.

Flanagan said Radnor has been working with Philadelphia Police to learn best practices for crowd control following sports championships.

“We brought in their expertise and they are side-by-side with us,” Flanagan said. “They also have a large contingent of officers who will be here helping.”

Along with the entire Radnor police force and officers from Lower Merion and Philadelphia, authorities from the state police, the Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division, the FBI and other officers from across the county trained in crowd control will be on hand Monday night, Flanagan said. There will be three motorcycle teams, state police horses, a state police helicopter and a special triage center in place.

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David G. Tedjeske, Villanova’s director of public safety and chief of campus police, said he will have 75 staffers, including 65 uniformed officers, out Monday night.

“We’re also prepared with fire-suppression planning and emergency-medical planning,” he said. “Just because we had a good experience in 2016 doesn’t mean we’re going to be lax about tonight. Any time you have thousands of people in post-victory celebrations you have to be ready for anything basically.”

A unified command center has been established in the Radnor Township building so that all agencies will be under roof to facilitate communication and responses.

Radnor Township Emergency Operations Center, Radnor Fire Company Ready For Final Four Championship GameRadnor Township…

Posted by Radnor Fire Company on Sunday, April 1, 2018

After the 2016 Villanova win, Radnor police created an action plan in the event of another win, Flanagan said.

He warned those who plan to come to the area to celebrate to consider taking public transportation or Uber, as there will be many road closures.

“You’re not just going to be able to sashay in there. If they win there will be thousands upon thousands entering the streets to celebrate,” he said. “We know they’re going to run out into the road and we have an action plan for that.”

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Many of the revelers may be coming from Villanova University, where a watch party is being held for students both inside and outside the school’s Connelly Center.

While no classes were held Monday as the school continued its Easter break, students were expected back on the campus in preparation for the start of class Tuesday and to watch the game, said Jonathan Gust, Villanova University spokesman.

“If 2016 was any indication, there will be a lot of campus excitement and a lot of students who choose to watch the game as a community,” he said.

Flanagan urged all those who plan to celebrate to do so in the spirit of the school’s winning basketball team.

“We want them to party like champions,” he said. “Just follow common sense and you should be fine.”