OPINION: Court Storming Needs to Change

College Basketball is one of the most passion filled sports in America. While the sport inspires some of sports’ most rabid fans, things can go sideways quickly.

Students love the chance to be able to participate and impact a game, even when they are not the ones shooting or defending. When their team completes a huge upset, such as Utah State beating #12 Nevada, the court is suddenly filled with mostly non-athletes.

Storming the court is a time honored tradition that represents all of the best parts of college basketball: upsets, fan investment and the connection fans have with players.

But this can be a problem. Having a mass of strangers surrounding opponents after close losses can end poorly.

Utah Valley University learned this the hard way a few years back when they beat New Mexico State to clinch the regular season WAC title.

St. Bonaventure, of the Atlantic 10 Conference, had their students rush the court before the game was over, resulting in Virginia Commonwealth University tying the game on a free throw, and then beating St. Bonaventure in overtime.

One of the worst examples of what can go wrong came about after the Utah State vs Nevada game last Saturday. After the Aggies upset the Wolf Pack to clinch at least a share of the Mountain West title, Nevada head coach Eric Musselman was heard saying that Aggie fans touched his players, verbally abused them and had a Utah State assistant coach say “F— you!” down the handshake line after regulation.

The MWC is investigating the incident, but video shows that tempers were flaring for Wolf Pack staff and players in a profane-induced tirade. (WARNING: GRAPHIC LANGUAGE USED)

When asked about the incident, Utah State head coach Craig Smith had this to say:

Court storming may be part of the college game, but it’s become a very dangerous event. Can we not let the visiting team get off the court so they don’t get in a fight (i.e. New Mexico State)? College students are still just kids. They all say stupid things they shouldn’t.

So far, the SEC is the only major conference to ban court storming, while the Big 12 has rules in place that allow the commissioner to impose fines and sanctions to schools who fail to control post game actions.

It’s time to protect the players. If students really want to storm the court to celebrate a big win, go for it. We get it, it’s fun and there are bragging rights to be had. But have some control. Let visiting players get off the court. Give them space to breathe. Don’t verbally, or physically, abuse them. Let them live their own college life and not worry about what some other person they don’t know may or may not do to them.

Story by Kurt Meacham
Photo Courtesy of Hannah Gibbs of unsplash.com