March 6, 2016

SCAZZERO | Storming the Court

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It’s almost bracket time for March Madness, which means it’s almost thetime of year for another basketball tradition: storming the court. Storming the court has been a tradition in college basketball for about as long as the sport has been around. The rush of fans onto the court is common at most schools after a monumental game; the crowd goes wild and leaves their seats to go celebrate with their team. It happens so often at the end of a big game that to a spectator it seems relatively harmless — just a way in which the fans get caught up in emotion and show their appreciation for the team. Personally I have never been a part of storming the court, but it seems fun. If you like crowds and celebrating. However, apparently recently there has been a lot of controversy surrounding court storming.

Court storming most recently made it into the news after the rivalry game between Iowa State and the University of Iowa, with Iowa State coming back from a 20-point deficit to earn an 83-82 victory. Full of that classic sports-fan joy, the Cyclone fans rushed to join the team on the court and celebrate. What made headlines was that a longtime sportswriter for The Des Moines Register, Randy Peterson, got his leg twisted from the stampede and had to undergo physical therapy for three months afterwards. Peterson is not a fan of storming the court.

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller has a similar opinion, openly stating his concerns about the well-being of his players should they get hit from an overly-excited fan. He points out that there is no professional-level sport where this happens, and that the NCAA needs to address this disparity.

To add to the never-ending slew of sports statistics, here’s one on court storming; the Arizona team has been stormed in 10 out of their 11 road losses. This, the coach claims, has made it difficult for the team together themselves and head to the locker room, not to mention difficult to get out of the way so the whirlwind of fans can actually join up with the home team players. In evidence of his concerns, last February, Kansas’ Jamari Traylor was hip checked by a Kansas State fan during an incident of “court storming.” To be fair, if one were to pit a 6-foot-7 NCAA Division 1 Athlete against a fan in the stands, I would ten times out of ten bet on the athlete (hypothetically, of course, since betting is against NCAA rules). But this does show that there is a potential risk to both the athletes and the fans in the event of “court storming.” Not to mention awkward that the losing team does not even have enough time to get off the court and often gets caught in the celebration of their opponent.

The NCAA does not have an official, all-encompassing rule regarding crowd control and court storming, instead allowing each individual conference uphold their own security measures. Certain conferences, such as the SEC and the Big East have strict penalties in place, which fine the teams as much as $5,000 if they fail to prevent fans from storming. However, the NCAA has spoken out and said that they do not allow storming at championship games. I don’t think that even when the Big Red made it to the Sweet 16 that the fans were allowed to storm the court, and that’s the first time Cornell ever won a game in the NCAA tournament.

There is an argument to be made for the spirit of court storming, as it’s something that sets college athletics apart from the professional level, and is such a massive display of fan emotion. It also makes for great victory pictures. Honestly, I would be a little bitter if I left a basketball game I wasn’t even playing in and had to do three months of physical therapy, but maybe that’s just the risk of being a fan.