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College Basketball: Time For Court-Storming To End

Court storming has become something of a tradition over many years, but the risks outweigh the value of the tradition.

Andy Lyons

Mike DeCourcy of The Sporting News had a piece the other addressing a few questions about college basketball, including Andrew Wiggins, Dick Vitale's recommendation to appoint a college basketball "czar," and this:

3. Speaking of czars, let’s say Mark Emmert gave you free rein to ban fans from storming the court. Would you favor it?

DeCourcy: The New York Islanders won a huge playoff game at home Tuesday over the Pittsburgh Penguins. See any fans storm the ice? Only in college sports do fans feel entitled to invade the playing surface at the conclusion of the contest. It doesn’t matter that we’ve had multiple instances in which fans were on the field before the games were decided. It doesn’t matter that we’ve had instances in which fans or competitors were injured. [My emphasis] [...]

There’s absolutely no point to this. It’s astounding that colleges—or their insurance companies—have not recognized this as a massive potential liability. But it’s not going to stop until something awful happens.

I have argued against court and field-storming for years now, and DeCourcy's commentary is precisely why. The biggest argument for allowing court-storming is that it has become a kind of tradition with big upsets, or when a #1 team loses a game, particularly in a non-blueblood away setting—unless, of course, you are Indiana University.

Part of me is sympathetic to this argument. I'm quite certain that, were I to somehow displace time and confront myself as a 25 year-old on this point, my younger version would surely embrace it. Tradition is important in college sports. In fact, one could argue that traditions are one of the things that makes college athletics so great, and at the very least is a major enhancement. Who can imagine a Kentucky game without the singing of "My Old Kentucky Home?"

With that said, I don't think tradition is a good enough reason to jeopardize people's safety, or the safety of the players and coaches. In my view, court-storming, if it is allowed at all, should only be allowed after all those wishing to leave the floor and the arena have left the area, and that it should be conducted in an orderly manner down to the floor. If there must be a mosh pit after that, fine.

That way, at least, those who want to celebrate in a jumble of humanity may do so at their own risk, without potentially jeopardizing the well-being of their fellow patrons who want nothing more than to go home in peace. Most people pay for a ticket to come see the game, cheer, enjoy the atmosphere and pageantry, and leave in an orderly, timely manner without the prospect of being knocked down by a fan anxious to throw himself into the chaos of a court-storm.

Would that take the spontaneity, and some of the fun out of it? Undoubtedly. But it would make it safe enough for the innocent bystander, and those willing to risk injury in a mini-riot would do so at their own risk.

Court-storming and field-storming have to stop, and they will. Unfortunately, it will take a tragedy, as it too often does, for people to finally understand that this is no longer an acceptable form of celebration as currently practiced. It endangers others, and if we can't mitigate those risks by making the process more orderly and less instant, then we should probably do away with it altogether.