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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Pac-12 needs to put court-storming rules in place before a basketball player puts a fan in their place

Last week on Wednesday night, I watched in agony from my living room as the Arizona men’s basketball team could not follow through with its comeback in Boulder, Colorado, against the University of Colorado Buffaloes. I sat white-knuckled on the couch as Gabe York haplessly dribbled the basketball out of bounds in the crucial final seconds of the game, much to the jubilation of the screaming Colorado fans. As a huge UA men’s basketball fan, I was crushed that we lost such an important game this late in the season.

And yet again, adding insult to injury, the home crowd stormed the court for the 10th time in the last 11 road losses.

A long-standing tradition in college basketball, court storming occurs when fans of an “underdog” team flood onto the court after their team defeats a higher-ranked opponent.

Colorado fans hardly waited for the final buzzer to sound before they sprinted to celebrate on center court with their team. It was a stampede that left the Arizona players and coaches in the precarious position of either trying to stand their ground or shoving their way through the raucous crowd.

After the game, Arizona head coach Sean Miller expressed his frustrations on the lack of court-storming regulations in the Pac-12 Conference by telling the media, “Eventually what’s going to happen in the Pac-12 is this: an Arizona player is going to punch a fan, and they are going to punch the fan out of self-defense.”

It is easy to see Miller’s point. In the midst of such an emotionally charged moment, having a swarm of screaming kids jeering at you straight to your face is more than a little frustrating. And in Arizona’s case, the court is stormed at nearly every away game it loses.

Miller isn’t reaching when he says that a future altercation is possible. Two seasons ago at a Utah Valley vs. New Mexico State basketball game, after Utah Valley won the game in overtime, fans rushed the court. In a disastrous scene, New Mexico State players and Utah Valley fans exchanged punches and a brawl erupted in the middle of the court.

It only takes a single player to make an aggressive advance toward an opposing fan to escalate such a frenzy into a full-fledged fight. But as it stands, there is no regulation in the Pac-12 for rushing the court. On Wednesday night, Miller further criticized the conference for not being safety-oriented.

“If 7-foot-2, 250-pound Kaleb Tarczewski gets bumped literally within three seconds of the game ending and he retaliates, what would be the response of our conference?” he asked.

Obviously, retaliation isn’t the appropriate response to a court storming, and Arizona’s players have done a great job of handling themselves with composure even with opposing fans hurling insults inches away from their faces. If the kind of retaliation that Miller predicts does occur, there will be lawsuits, injuries and controversy for the Pac-12 to deal with.

So why not prevent such an ordeal and enforce some rules?

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) is currently the only conference that imposes fines against schools who storm the court, but even simply requiring fans to stay in their seats until the opposing team can leave the court would promote safety and still allow the fun of celebrating with your winning team.

Is the tradition of running on to the court after an upset win fun? Of course. Is it safe? Not at all.

I am admittedly biased — Arizona men’s basketball is on a higher level than any other program in the Pac-12, and thus it is the only conference team whose losses result in court storming. But I hope everyone in the conference can see that it’s common sense to put a few rules in place to protect fans from injury, schools from lawsuits and players from a whole lot of regret. 


Follow Scott Baca on Twitter


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