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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Storming The Court: A College Basketball Guide to Dos and Don'ts

Recently, the topic of whether it is appropriate to storm the court after a college basketball game has come under much scrutiny.

And, while there are those who favor the act regardless of the circumstances (Dan Dakich, I am talking to you) I thought I, too, would weigh in on the subject. After all, I was once an undergraduate at an institution of higher learning (The George Washington University, in case you were wondering) And our men's basketball team, now somewhat of an afterthought, was once ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Well, it was among the Top 25 for a brief period of time during my freshman year, anyway.

But I digress. The point I want to make here is that while it has become very trendy to bum rush the court after your college basketball team defeats school X, it is not always the right thing to do.

 First of all, students need to be aware of the injury risks they pose to the players or event staff. Dan Dakich himself states that his career ended when fans stormed the court after a win, but, if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn't change a thing. That might be cool for Dakich, as he probably was nothing more than a role player at best. But what if, for instance, during the end of the Wisconsin-Michigan game yesterday, fans had injured center Jared Berggren to the point he could not return for the remainder of the season? Would they still be celebrating the Badgers' upset win over the Wolverines with the same enthusiasm? I don't think so.

Then, maybe just as important, is the safety of the staff working the ballgames, many of whom are fellow students. As a matter of fact, while I was at George Washington, I had the privilege of working more than a few men's basketball games. And, while the students never rushed the court during my four years there, I was, along with my fellow coworkers, instructed to see that such a thing did not occur. I thank my lucky stars I was never injured as the result of my fellow students storming the court.

All of this, you say may be sour grapes on my part. That now that I am 35 years old, I have forgotten what it is like to be a college kid. Far from it, I remember some of those times like they were yesterday. In fact, when I was a freshman, I remember our Colonials (ranked 15th in the AP poll at the time) hosting the University of Rhode Island Rams (ranked in the top 10, I believe) who featured All-American and future NBA star Lamar Odom. Although we ended up losing the game, the atmosphere was electric, as it was one of the few sellouts of our 5,000 seat Smith Center Gymnasium.

Would I have wanted to storm the court had we beaten the Rams? Well, considering I was sitting in the upper bleachers for the contest, I wouldn't have been in position to do so anyway. But after having worked several games, my perspective changed somewhat.

Fast forward to today. This is not to say I am against storming the court altogether, but I believe there should be restrictions that guide when and where it happens. What then, you ask, should those restrictions be? I'd be happy to answer that:

1. Any school that wishes to storm the court must not only be ranked outside the AP Top 25, but they must also defeat a school ranked within the Top 5.

This rule should be almost automatic, especially given the fluid nature of this year's Associated Press Poll.  If you're going to put fellow students, on athletic scholarship no less, in harm's way, then at least make sure it's due to the fact you pulled off an improbable upset.

2. Corollary to Rule No. 1: If your school has upset a Top 5 school in the past five years, you are not allowed to storm the court, regardless.

This may seem somewhat harsh, but what I am trying to accomplish here is a set of boundaries that will protect not only the student-athletes but also game staff.

3.If you belong to a school that has no chance of making the NCAA tournament, and that school defeats an AP Top 10 school, you may storm the court.

I'm all about player safety, but if you're not making the NCAA's, chances are defeating a Top 10 program will be your biggest win that season. Go ahead and celebrate.

Thanks for your time. Please go out and enjoy the game in a safe manner. :)

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