When it comes to court storming, something’s ‘gotta change.’ But will it?

When it comes to court storming, something’s ‘gotta change.’ But will it?

Tooba Shakir 54 years ago 0 0

Wake Forest fans stormed the court Saturday after the Demon Deacons upset Duke, overwhelming any security presence and preventing Blue Devils players and coaches from getting to the locker room in a scene that has for decades been a visual staple of the excitement of college basketball.

The ritual felt different on this occasion, thanks to Duke’s Kyle Filipowski injuring his knee when he collided with a fan. “This gotta change,” he wrote on X, and Filipowski would later say the collision felt “personal, intentional for sure. There’s no reason where they see a big guy like me trying to work my way off the court and they can’t just work around me. There’s no excuse for that.”

In his postgame news conference, Duke Coach Jon Scheyer called for the tradition of court storming to be banned.

“When are we going to ban court storming?” he asked. “When are we going to ban that? How many times does a player have to get into something where they get punched or they get pushed or they get taunted right in their face? And it’s a dangerous thing.”

Although Wake Forest was not technically the underdog in the game, beating a ranked Duke team on its home court felt like a good bet to fuel a court storm, especially given that the signature win over the No. 8 Blue Devils lifted the Demon Deacons’ record to 18-9 and 10-6 in the ACC.

After Saturday’s incident in Winston Salem, N.C., calls for change intensified, which prompted a response from ACC commissioner Jim Phillips. “The safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority,” Phillips said in a statement. “We have been and will continue to be, in contact with both Duke and Wake Forest regarding what happened following today’s game. Across college athletics, we have seen far too many of these incidents that put individuals at serious risk, and it will require the cooperation of all — including spectators — to ensure everyone’s well-being.

“As a conference, we will continually assess with our schools the best way to protect our student-athletes, coaches, and fans.”

Wake Forest Athletic Director John Currie said in a statement that the school’s “event management staff and security had rehearsed postgame procedures to protect the visiting team and officials, [but] we clearly must do better. I appreciate the postgame comments of Duke head coach Jon Scheyer and I am in complete agreement that something more must be done about the national of phenomenon of court and field storming and Wake Forest looks forward to being a part of those conversations.”

Those kinds of comments have never brought about any real solutions, though.

The topic came rushing back to the forefront last month, when Iowa’s Caitlin Clark was “blindsided” by an Ohio State fan during a court storm in the aftermath of a Buckeyes upset of the Hawkeyes in Columbus. Clark, who was unhurt, said, “This is what comes with the territory. I’m sure they tried their best to do whatever they could. Obviously it didn’t work, and that’s disappointing.”

Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith apologized to Clark, one of the biggest stars in college basketball, and Iowa Coach Lisa Bluder, and the Hawkeyes “made some adjustments” to their security at road games, Athletic Director Beth Goetz said earlier this month. “We were always proactively — and have been particularly in and around women’s basketball — but communicating with them on the ground before we arrived,” Goetz said. “Now we’re advancing a group a little bit earlier to make sure that they’re engaged with the hotel and at the site of competition.”

The Big Ten Conference has a system in place “if adequate security is not provided,” it said in a statement following the incident at Ohio State. That system “begins with a private reprimand for the first offense, public reprimand for second offense, and the discretion to implement a fine plus additional penalties for a third offense.”

There have been several other notable incidents over the years. After host Kansas State beat then-eighth ranked Kansas in February 2015, students nearly trampled Jayhawks Coach Bill Self, an assistant coach put an aggressive fan in a headlock and one student threw an elbow at Kansas forward Jamari Traylor. Currie was the K-State athletic director at the time and said, “Spectators belong in the stands. They should never be on the court.”

Self was more outspoken. “This has got to stop,” Self said. “It’s fine if you want to celebrate when you beat us. That’s your business. That’s fine. But at least it shouldn’t put anybody at risk from a safety standpoint. Somebody is going to hit a player, the player is going to retaliate, you’re going to have lawsuits. It’s not right.”

That same month, Maryland fans ignored pleas by its public address announcer to stay off the court after the Terrapins upset No. 5 Wisconsin in College Park. “That’s an absolutely embarrassing court storming,” ESPN’s Seth Greenberg said at the time. “You’re the University of Maryland. You’ve won a national championship. You’re playing on your home court. So what are [the Badgers] — the second, third, fourth, depending on the rating, ranked team? You’re in the top 15, you do not storm the court. Illegal, embarrassing for the University of Maryland.”

One year later, nothing had changed when Colorado upset then ninth-ranked Arizona. “Eventually what’s going to happen in the Pac-12 is this: an Arizona player is going to punch a fan. And they’re going to punch the fan out of self-defense,” Sean Miller, then the Wildcats coach, said. “And when it happens, only when it happens, will everybody say ‘We have to do something so that when the game ends we have a deep breath to be able to leave the court. Or at least shake the other team’s hand and then get to our locker room.’ ”

Solutions, perhaps as simple as hiring extra security, have been elusive. In Syracuse’s Carrier Dome in 2003, Pittsburgh alleged that a fan slugged forward Donatas Zavackas in the face during a court storm. In 2013, North Carolina State forward C.J. Leslie lifted a student to safety after he was thrown from a wheelchair during a court storming incident.

In 2014, a New Mexico State player was suspended after a brawl on the court following a game with Utah Valley. In December 2015, Des Moines Register columnist Randy Peterson suffered a compound leg fracture when Iowa State fans stormed the court after a win over Iowa. Two years ago, Boise State fans were tackled and pushed by security guards as they tried to storm the floor after the team sealed a Mountain West championship.

After a loss at Virginia in 2013, Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski called for schools to have a plan, saying, “Whatever you’re doing, you need to get the team off first. Celebrate, have fun. Obviously you won. That’s cool, but just get our team off the court and our coaching staff before students come on.”

The SEC fines schools $100,000 for a first court or field storming offense, $250,000 for a second and $500,000 each for subsequent offenses — and LSU was fined $100,000 last week after its fans stormed the court following a victory over Kentucky. The ACC has no fine structure for court storming.

“I know it will keep happening and accept it,” ESPN’s Jay Bilas told the Associated Press after the Clark incident. “But it seems inevitable that something negative will happen, and we’ll act surprised when it was foreseeable.”

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