Wiedmer: Allow Court Storming Only If You Can Protect Losing Team

  • Tuesday, February 27, 2024
  • Mark Wiedmer
Mark Wiedmer
Mark Wiedmer

November 9, 1996.

That’s the day I changed my mind about storming a field or court after a big-time college athletics victory. That’s the day I almost got my head taken off by the broken end of a football goal post after Memphis stunned Peyton Manning and Tennessee 21-17 inside the Liberty Bowl.

Court-storming is in the news this week and should be after Wake Forest students stormed their basketball court on Saturday following a huge home court victory over Duke.

Nothing wrong with that in a general sense. Wake desperately needed the 83-79 win to boost its shaky NCAA Tournament resume. And Duke is one of those blueblood programs - along with Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina and perhaps defending national champ Connecticut - that occasionally stirs over-the-top behavior from its foes.

But this time it went too far. Duke post player Kyle Filipowski injured an ankle after being bumped by Demon Deacon fans pouring onto the court to celebrate the win. The good news is that he is reported to be a little sore but otherwise OK and should be back on the court for Duke’s game against visiting Louisville on Wednesday night.

Likewise, Iowa women’s superstar Caitlin Clark suffered no serious injury after getting caught in a court-storming stampede following an upset loss at Ohio State last week.

But that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been injured. Or someone in the future won’t be. It’s without question an accident waiting to happen any time this behavior is allowed, or at least not policed in a way that protects the losing team as it leaves the court.

It’s gone on as long as it has - remember the Stanford band inadvertently storming the field before the end of Cardinal’s football game with Cal in 1982 and providing Cal a mess of a field with which to lateral five times, run over a Stanford trombone player and win the game? - that it’s become an unfortunate tradition immediately following landmark upsets.

After all, what Tennessee football fan didn’t enter Neyland Stadium on Oct. 15, 2022 not hoping to storm the field should the Vols defeat Alabama for the first time in 16 years? They might have even dreamed of blowing a little cigar smoke in the faces of a few Bama players. When Tennessee won and Big Orange bedlam ensued, it became one of the most replayed scenes of that entire college season. And every college kid who ever lived hopes they get to experience a similar moment during their school years.

And maybe there should be a way to do that. But it would require far more restraint and rules than have been witnessed to now. And at the risk of whining like the 66-year-old man I am, society isn’t getting any more civil or sportsmanlike these days. Instead, it seems that rubbing anyone’s nose in a loss is almost expected.

I always tell my daughters that victory is its own reward, or should be. You won. Keep your mouth shut. The other guy feels bad enough as if. When your time comes, when your team loses, do you want the other guy to rub it in your face?

But that’s not the way it works now. It’s in your face, in your ears taunting. The more hurtful the better. Especially on social media. So when Filipowski got clipped yesterday at Wake, wiser heads began to make arguments for doing away with court storming all together.

Already, 11 conferences, including the Southeastern, assign fines for court storming or field storming. The minimum for an SEC infraction, for instance, is $100,000. It escalates from there. Perhaps starting out at $500,000 would encourage individual schools to better protect the opposing team.

Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne went so far this week to suggest a team be forced to forfeit a game for court storming. With Tennessee at Alabama this weekend in basketball, we’ll see how much Byrne is able to control his students should the Crimson Tide beat the No. 4 Vols.

Me? I’d dock the schools points for the next game, but only if we can’t find a suitable solution - say a 30-second rule to get the losing teams off the court without incident before the storming begins.

But if that doesn’t work, and players and coaches well-being is jeopardized, you start out in an 0-5 hole the next game. If that doesn’t solve the problem, the next violation is 10 points.

Something like a forfeit would clearly be a knee-jerk reaction to an issue that’s been a part of college athletics for close to 50 years. Then again, better a knee-jerk reaction than a knee injury to an elite athlete because of a severe lack of sportsmanship.

* * *

(Mark Wiedmer can be reached at mwiedmer@mccallie.org)

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