Why and How the NCAA Should Ban Court Storming

Maryland FansGary Parrish of CBS Sports on Wednesday:

But tradition is never a good reason to continue doing something that shouldn’t be done, and court-storming is something that shouldn’t be done. Beyond the fact that students have been injured during such celebrations, it seems undeniable that eventually we’re going to have an ugly scene that’ll lead to a black eye for the sport.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports on Thursday:

At the end of a thrilling, overtime win for UVU, which moved them into first place in the WAC, K.C. Ross-Miller threw a ball at Holton Hunsaker, sparking a shoving match that resulted in fists flying between UVU fans and some of the NMSU players.

On Twitter, there was a lot of back and forth about whether the start of the fight occurred before or after the court was stormed. Regardless, it does not change the fact that having a large number of fans on the floor made the situation worse. Either the fans being on the floor contributed to the escalation of the fight or fans are arguing for the ability to run onto the floor to defend their team, physically if necessary.

Parrish is correct that whether a team should storm the floor because of its history or past success is irrelevant. Court (or field) storming should be judged on its safety merits. The family of the next player or fan who is seriously injured during a court storming will take little solace in the fact that the court storming was “legitimate”. But the fact that the debate occurs more and more shows that court storming occurs more and more. It is no longer a rare occurrence for truly stunning upsets. It happens at least every week of the college basketball season, if not most nights. It is only a matter of time before something much worse than the NMSU/UVU incident occurs.

What should the NCAA do about it? Parrish suggested fines, but I would go a step further and borrow a penalty from European soccer: the closed door game. Closed door games are commonly imposed as a penalty for fan violence or racist chants. In a closed door game, the game is played in front of no fans except friends and family of the players and staff of the teams. There are also partially closed door games, like in Turkey where men above 12 years old can be banned or this season’s game between Olympiakos and Manchester United where a specific section of the stadium was empty.

The NCAA should skip partial measures like banning students from a game and go straight to an empty stadium with only the family and friends of the players permitted to attend. The penalty should be imposed for the next conference game, so if fans storm the court at the last home game of the season, the penalty rolls over to the following season. The NCAA should leave it to the conference and the institution to sort out what happens to the paying customers, although in most cases the lost income will have the effect of a much larger fine than even the SEC’s $50,000 fine for repeat offenders.

If nothing else, the NCAA should act out of pure self-interest. As shocking as a claim that the NCAA has no legal duty to protect athletes sounds, it is rooted in precedent that athletes assume the normal risks associated with their sport. Being trampled or attacked by fans is not a normal risk of playing basketball. If the NCAA allows court (and field) storming to continue, it is eventually going to find itself not just with a black eye, but with a big bill to pay as well.

 

Posted on by John Infante
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