Bro v. Bro: “Storm the Court”

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It’s become a more famous stampede than the running of the bulls in Pamplona. The buzzer at the end of a college basketball game has evolved into a starting signal for hordes of college students (and adults!) around the nation. But while it is been accepted as simply part of the college basketball experience, has storming the court gone too far in the eyes of those involved? In this week’s Bro v. Bro, our writers represent their unique college experiences and go head-to-head in discussing the do’s, don’ts and danger of storming the court!

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Let’s do some quick hypothetical situations: Your unranked team has beat an out-of-conference ranked team on your home court. Storm the court?

(JR): Hell yeah! As an unranked team, you need to seize every opportunity to generate positive press and vibes around your program. When it comes to building a successful program, the number one thing you must do is recruit. And the number one thing that helps recruiting? WINNING. So if your team pulled off a big upset, rush the court and get yourselves on the highlight reel of as many sports shows around the country as possible. Believe me, somewhere some recruit will see it and think, “Man, I want to be a part of that experience.”

(DR): Absolutely. Especially if “unranked” means “unknown” and “unanticipated” by most anyone, even the serious college basketball fan or analyst. Your team may be fighting its way out of anonymity or fighting its way into the Top 25 or fighting to get any win at all, but either way, a statement victory over a ranked and probably well-known opponent is huge. It could even be season-defining or season-saving. All of the implications mean it has to be celebrated unlike any other victory that season. And what better way than to storm the court?

Your ranked team has beat a ranked conference rival on your home court. Are you pushing over security guards?

(DR): Possibly, but only if this is a major upset (like a #20-25 beating a top 5 team). Otherwise, you need to act like you’ve been there before. Like you belong in the top teams of the country and expect to play the best teams tough and come out with victories your fair share of the time. In many cases, these games between ranked teams are actually between teams within the same conference that might play each other multiple times per season. So the “unique” factor of a victory is removed and the “unbelievable” or “unfathomed” portion is absent as well because both teams are within the same level of performance (that’s why they’re both ranked). Thus, since the real reason to rush the court is to celebrate a unique, unexpected, season-changing victory, I highly doubt that a game between ranked opponents that are often conference foes is going to have those elements. It might be a fantastic game, but worth the student body rushing the court? Unlikely.

(JR): I really would err on the side of “act like you’ve been there before” with this situation. But obviously there are a lot of different factors that can come into play. Beating a conference rival is always a bigger deal than any other game so you would think it would warrant a bigger post-game reaction. But remember the repercussions of storming the court are similar to that of gloating and bragging in the public eye: you’re going to have to play this team again at some point in the near future and it will be on THEIR home court. Do you really want to provide more motivation for them to beat you next time? In that train of thought, I would keep your fans off the court. Beyond that, conference rivals often provide a large scale of hatred among opposing fans and therefore creating opportunity for the safety of the players and coaches to be at risk. If I had a free shot to hit Tyler Hansbrough back in 2009, you BEST BELIEVE that I am dropping the hammer on that Tar Heel.

Your top-five ranked team has beat a top-five ranked conference rival on your home court. Party on the hardwood?

(JR): C’mon, no way. Granted, these games are arguably the biggest wins for any team all season long. It’s the date that was circled on the schedule all year long, the one that your players, coaches and fans wanted more than anything else. But if you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to act like the best! Going into a game like this, I’m sure the home team fans are talking trash about the opposing players, claiming how awful they are and how their own team is supremely superior in every facet of the game. So if your team beats a proclaimed “inferior” team, how unexpected and remarkable should it really feel for you? Storming the court would contradict all of those prior claims, though most sports fans are not to be believed when speaking in hyperbole. Moral of this story is something I’ve harped on before: winning is always enough. Beating a fellow top-five team is going to send shockwaves through the country by itself, you don’t need to add a unnecessary student earthquake to the mix.

(DR): Absolutely not. If you’re in the top 5, you’re vying to be the best team in the country. And the definition of the best team in the country is that they have and they will beat everyone else, regardless of ranking or talent. They are expected to win every game. They are the team that loses and other teams storm the court to celebrate the victory. Students, fans, all of the crowd should be attending games with the collective expectation that their team will win every time. Especially at their court. In fact, the only thing “unexpected” or “unpredicted” thing would be a loss. And I would highly doubt anyone is court-storming following a loss…

Do you agree or disagree with Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s comments that opposing coaches and players should be escorted off the court before anyone else is allowed on?

(DR): Ok, I’m going to start off here with a disclaimer – I am a UVa alum that couldn’t be happier with our start-to-finish victory over Duke and actually wished I was there in Charlottesville on the court at JPJ. That said, I do agree with Coach K’s sentiment about the potential risk of having his players still on the court while fans rushed down from the stands. With such emotion from a hard fought game, the risk of an unintended confrontation is definitely heightened. To avoid that, security should try to get the losing team’s players off of the court as soon as possible. However, I also think that Coach K allowed his anger resulting from the loss (and, I’ll admit, probably frustrating officiating) to make the situation in Charlottesville seem a lot worse than it actually was. Were Duke’s players truly endangered? Between 5-10 seconds after the first students hit the court, security guards stood and blocked off the Duke team from all fans and quickly began to make a barrier toward the exit. Was Duke really “stuck” on the court for a long time? Within a minute to minute and a half all of Duke’s team was escorted off the court and into the locker room. Add to all of this the fact that a) Duke has absolutely, 100% dominated and demoralized the UVa basketball team for an entire decade (umm, try watching your team lose 17 of the last 18 games to Duke) and b) UVa has got to have one of the friendliest and most respectful fan-bases in the ACC and maybe the country (I’d even say too nice). Now c’mon, Coach K, you brought up a good point, but you totally blew it out of proportion and in doing so, made it falsely seem like UVa has a fan base that can’t be trusted. Not to call them out, but Maryland burns benches (sometimes even cars) after big victories and yet, Coach K decides to bring this subject up after UVa’s victory and not after Maryland’s? I understand it might have been a “last straw” kind of deal, but I don’t appreciate the way it was portrayed or when he brought it up. He might have said “UVa is a great school, etc, etc,” but we all know the attention that Duke (and Coach K) draw and what happened but ESPN has made a bigger deal out of the court storming than out of UVa’s victory. There are probably more articles on the former than the latter. And that is what truly makes me frustrated. He has a good point, but don’t bring it up and pretend to “give credit” to the other team while you know you’re really just bringing on a huge media firestorm (because you’re Duke) that will far, far out shadow the great play of UVa. Thanks Coach.

(JR): Ohhhh, here is maybe the first real example of the two bros going head to head. I am a life-long Duke fan (due to our family legacy at the school) but also a UVA fan because it’s my brother’s alma mater. Though I wanted Duke to win the game, I was very proud of the Cavaliers for their performance and genuinely overjoyed that their victory was garnering national attention. Want to hear something crazy? I believe that is exactly how Coach Krzyzweski feels too. He’s always been a class act, respectful of his competition and quick to praise his opponent’s play rather than criticize his own team. In fact, how many times have you seen the camera catch Coach K stopping in the handshake line after a game to put his arm around the opposing team’s best player and seemingly tell him how great he performed that game. So in that light, I completely agree with what Coach K said, how he said it and when he said it. First of all, what he said was simply that UVA earned the win, deserved to storm the court and that he had no problem with that ritual as long as the safety of his players and staff is not in question. He did not say that any of the UVA students did anything to provoke his concern, in fact I think UVA probably has the classiest of student sections, but simply that it could be a concern in the future. As far as when he said it? Sure, it feels like it took the air out of UVA’s big win and took some of the headlines away from a victory that very well could have gotten the Cavs into the NCAA tourney. But on the flip side, what if he had waited? To me, if Coach K had waited a few days then it would have just felt like he was complaining to complain. The media would ask him why he didn’t shed light on his concerns in the immediate aftermath? With today’s media, the production and consumption of sports is simultaneous. So I believe Coach K felt the need to express his concerns about the current situation and then move onto the next headline (which, mind you, happened to be a victory over a fellow top-five team with NO court storming). Forgive me for paraphrasing a hall-of-famer but the blunt truth is this: it takes 5 seconds to get the opposing team off the court but only 1 second for a stupid fan to make a poor decision.

Final Question: Is storming the court going to be allowed by NCAA rule 2 years from now? What is an alternative for elated fans after a big win?

(JR): Regardless of Coach K’s comments, I had a feeling that storming the court was losing its luster in the eyes of NCAA power brokers. Even the overzealous media was growing weary of weekly court celebrations that were deemed unworthy in their eyes. Now some conferences are starting to investigate whether this ritual fits in with the future growth of their “product.” My response? You’re damn right it does. Everything about college sports revolves around emotions and reactions. These are elite athletes that are, for the large part, competing without any ulterior agenda other than winning for their school. The elation in victory, despair in defeat is unrivaled in any other level of sports around our country. If you’re the commissioner of a Division I Conference that happens to be reading this article, please hear my plea: don’t strip the sport of the emotions that makes it unique. Call me optimistic but I do believe storming the court will be allowed in years to come but schools will begin to implement certain restrictions and take several precautions. They’ll allow the other team to get off the court, they’ll try to ban any objects being brought onto the court and they may even limit the number of people allowed to actually rush the court. Maybe the first 500 students in a certain section are the ones allowed to take part in the unique experience. As for alternatives, the reality is that the hysteria is going to happen one place or another. So if a school really wants to ban storming the court, they better be prepared for situation similar to University Ave. in Gainesville, FL after the Gators won the 2008 National Championship. What else are students going to do, storm the library?

(DR): After this whole discussion, I’m afraid that more conferences (beyond the SEC) are going to start implementing “court storming” rules that will fine schools if their students rush the court. That would really be a shame as I feel like the potential for court-storming is one of the most unique elements of college basketball. Also, I really think it has got to be one of the safest forms of mass celebration. That might seem ridiculous, but think about what else a student body might do to celebrate and compare that to court storming. Let’s see, burning benches and cars or other types of vandalism? Pretty destructive and possibly criminal. Binge drinking celebration? Possibly illegal and definitely putting students’ lives in danger. Starting fights with opposing fans? Definitely stupid and likely leads to injuries. Storming the court? Potential risk of confrontations with the opposing team and some risk of injury, but fans get to release their emotions in running to the court (and yelling at the cameras) so that they’re tired yet satisfied when they go home. Besides, when was the last time there was something serious that happened after a court rushing? As a person that deals with risk analysis at his day job, when evaluating alternatives, there is rarely an answer where you accept zero risk. Every option will have its own nuanced set of risks, but you have to choose the one that you believe has the lowest. In this case, I truly believe its court storming over all of the other options. Maybe there can be some more defined “rules” around court-storming like it’s only allowed if it is an unranked team beating a ranked one (might be tough to enforce), but I definitely would not want it to be banned.

Your Turn – tell us if you agree with our thoughts or if you’d answer the questions differently…

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