by: Tony Thomas Updated:
ATHENS, Ga. - University of Georgia police are warning people to get to Sanford Stadium early Friday for the Spring Commencement ceremonies.
Increased security will likely mean longer wait times at checkpoints.
The graduations will be the largest gathering at UGA since the Boston bombings.
UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson said limitations on what can be brought into the stadium are a direct result of the attacks and a re-evaluation of procedures by officials.
"When things happen in the world it gives us a new benchmark," Williamson said.
The bottom line: no big bags or backpacks will be allowed in this year. Only bags smaller than 12 x 12 inches will get past security. Williamson said that equates to the size of a
Williamson said it's all an effort to keep the graduations a landmark event for the graduates and not a statement for someone wanting to do harm.
"They could conceal a gun, they could conceal a knife, they could conceal some type of a chemical. If someone wanted to have a means to harm, the bag provides an opportunity to carry it in undetected," Williamson said.
Under the arches on campus Wednesday night, soon-to-be graduates and families gathered to take pictures at the iconic location. Potential danger seemed to be the furthest thing on anyone's minds.
"This is my concern today," said proud mother Deanne Hill as she pointed to her son Andy.
"I didn't even realize security changes have been made. I've been trying to like get through finals," graduating student Jenee Brooks told Channel 2's Tony Thomas.
Officials said they hope the word spreads quickly to the nearly 30,000 people expected Friday night, or there could be long lines trying to get into the event.
"It's a shame. It puts such a cloud on the rest of the country. In my mind, you can't live in the fear of tragedy. You go about your day and hope everything goes ok," parent Kevin Pass said.
The chief warns additional changes are likely coming to football games this fall as well, although he said final decisions on what those might be have not been made.