By: Evan Lachnit, KCOU Sports
Earlier this week, the University of Kansas made the short trip over to Manhattan, Kansas to take on rival Kansas State in a Big Monday showdown of in-state rivals. It was a game that K-State had to win if they wanted any slim chance at making the tournament. In a well played, highly contested game, the Wildcats were able to pull off the upset and handed Kansas their second straight road loss in consecutive weeks. The loss for the Jayhawks dropped them to four conference losses on the season. A 12th consecutive regular season Big 12 title does not look like a for sure thing like it did just a couple of weeks ago.
The real story though does not really start until the final buzzer sounded at Fred Bramlage Coliseum, the “Octagon” as many people call it. The Octagon may have been a very appropriate name for the arena on Monday night — and, no, it was not because of the shape of the exterior of the building where it originally got that name. Just like any other time an unranked team defeats Kansas, the fans stormed the court. It was expected and is usually non-issue. That was not the case on Monday night.
Before you could blink after the buzzer went off, Kansas State students flooded the court to celebrate the huge victory for the Wildcats. Unfortunately, the celebration was not just screaming and jumping up and down in the middle of the court. Many K-State fans made it their own initiative to run at, hip check, shove and scream in the face of KU players. Luckily, the most noted incident was a Kansas assistant coach putting a fan in a brief (less than two second) headlock and throwing him towards the middle of the court and away from his players after the fan appeared to be taunting a Kansas player.
I say luckily because this was a fairly uneventful situation that had a chance to explode into something of the likes no one has seen before. It is different in cases of Marcus Smart last year pushing a Texas Tech fan, or even looking back at the NBA and Ron Artest, Metta World Peace (or what ever his name is now) and his role in the Malice in the Palace. That is a case of the player going into the stand which should never, for no reason happen, unless you are going to hug your mom after a big win.
I would like to add that I am all for court storming and for students to enjoy their college experience, but saying that, there needs to be rules. In a nutshell, here is what you get when fans storm the court immediately following a game. You have thousands of charged up fans, some of which may be slightly impaired due to the fact that their water bottle before the game was in fact not filled with water. Add on top of that young men that still have a high level of adrenaline running through them that just lost a game, they presumably should have won if fans are storming the court. Then put them in a 94 by 50 foot space all together and you are just asking for trouble.
Coaching at Duke, Mike Krzyzewski has seen his fair share of court stormings in his 35 years at the school. He does something much different than most schools. In most cases if a game is out of reach with under a minute left and it is clear the other fans will be storming the court, Krzyzewski will take out his starters and top bench players of the game. He then walks to half court to shake the opposing coaches hand and will take most of his players to the locker room early. It is an interesting strategy and one that makes sense. Why risk having a prominent player of yours punching a rowdy opposing fan because he was in the face of your player? Defuse the situation and get your star kids out of the line of fire. This should not have to be the case though.
It is simple as this. Fans can storm the court and have a great time celebrating a win. You must allow the opposing team to get off of the court though. Allow for both teams to shake hands, which takes less than a minute and once all players and team officials of the road team are safely in the tunnel, let the kids run rampant. That would also allow the dozens of media members that are on the court to have a few seconds to gather themselves and get out of the way of the mass of people. This eliminates any possibility of a fan-player altercation on the court that could turn ugly very quickly if it were to take place. It also would give fans about 30-45 seconds to gather themselves before they start running down bleachers towards the court. This could possibly allow that to be a much safer process as well. The thought of being trampled by hundreds of college kids is a scary one.
I also believe this should apply to football, though it is a totally different animal due to the size of the field and such. I think that a great example of this was two years ago when Mizzou captured its first ever SEC East title in a win over Texas A&M. Immediately following the game, Tigers fans stayed in the stands until the field had been cleared by Texas A&M and then the floodgates opened and fans rushed the field. And from experience I can say that the wait did not make less of the moment or make it less special. This also gave time to lower the goal posts which had become a problem and still is. Last year when Ole Miss defeated Alabama, Rebel fans brought down the goal posts and it was a scary scene. Not only are they putting their own lives at risk but also the people around them.
At the end of the day, it comes down to keeping everyone involved safe and out of trouble. That needs to be the first goal of everyone involved. The fans should be respectful and enjoy the win with their own team, instead of acting like a bunch of goons trying to instigate fights with NCAA D1 athletes, which does not make much sense either if you ask me.
Court storming is an awesome experience and should not end because a select few do not know how to act. At the same time, steps must be taken to prevent the type of thing that happened Monday night in Manhattan.
As a side note, with less than three weeks until selection Sunday here are some of my updated predictions about the end of the season.
John Wooden Player of the Year
Jahil Okafor, Duke
Team that could make a run that will be a very low seed
Albany and Florida Gulf Coast (Yes, Dunk City may be throwing it back to 2013)
11 to 13 seed range teams that could make some noise
Valparasio and Stephen F. Austin
Team that may exit earlier than expected
Louisville and Kansas
Arkansas, Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Iowa State, Kentucky, Maryland, Murray St. (Upset Special), North Carolina, Northern Iowa, Notre Dame, VCU, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin
Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin
Gonzaga, Kentucky, Maryland, Virginia
You can call me crazy but I have a feeling this ends a lot like the 2007 Super Bowl and Kentucky enters the game just like New England, undefeated, but falls. In a game that has close to 90 combined points and a lot of defense.
Virginia over Kentucky.