Two seconds remain on the clock. The last shot goes up. The final buzzer rings and the home team wins. Fans pour in from the stands, and the basketball court becomes a mosh pit of jumping players, media and fans.
Court-storming has become a weekly scene on ESPN, the sports media giant, and a topic of debate. While court-storming is a tradition in college basketball, some have begun to question its safety and whether it should continue to be allowed.
Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke University’s men’s basketball team expressed concern for his players after they lost at the University of Virginia on Feb. 28.
“Look—celebrate, have fun, obviously you won—that’s cool,” said Krzyzewski. “Just get our team off the court and our coaching staff before students come on.”
If this had come from any other coach, it might have been talked about and forgotten in the same day. However, the words came from a man who has over 950 career wins, led Duke to four NCAA Championships, was an assistant coach of the historic 1992 Olympic “Dream Team” and has already been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
But is he right?
The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), which Duke is a part of, has already announced plans to discuss court-storming at their spring meetings in May. Some have even predicted that a fining system may be put in place to discourage the act.
Taking away a historic college tradition may not be that easy, as it stirs up many emotions from loyal fans. To them, buying a ticket and cheering until their voices give out earns them the right to share the victory stage with the athletes.
They are wrong.
The main concern is that someone will get injured—an athlete on the court, a fan racing down the stairs or a reporter trying to get an interview. With the incalculable amount of variables involved, the risks are high that something bad will happen.
Something bad almost happened on Jan. 12, when Duke lost at North Carolina State University.
Will Privette, a wheelchair bound student and fan of NC State, rolled his way into the middle of the crowded court after the final buzzer. During the celebration, Privette fell and was saved by NC State forward, C.J. Leslie, who picked him up and held him until they found his wheelchair.
Privette said he knew it was a dumb thing to do, but described the experience as “awesome.”
Luckily, this particular event had a happy ending, but it may not always be so. Jumping in jubilation with hundreds of other fans can also quickly create a mob mentality. With that much energy and emotion, celebrating can easily turn into fighting. It might even spill into the streets outside, where riots and public destruction can occur; just watch videos of downtown Los Angeles after the Lakers win NBA titles.
These possibilities may be dramatic, but the concerns that come from them are not far-fetched, especially for a young college athlete. Their future is always at stake, and being hurt in a mob after a game is already over is something to worry about.
College sports are one long audition for athletes who hope to make it into professional sports. Time missed playing amounts to less time seen by scouts. And with so many athletes competing for the very limited amount of spaces on team rosters, game time becomes increasingly valuable.
There are reasons why it’s not allowed at the professional level. The public—one that may be drunk on alcoholic beverages or thrilling emotions—simply cannot be trusted.
For fans, excitement is what sports are all about. This emotion multiplies when teams beat their rivals or a top ranked team. Logic and reason do not come into the equation, as fans can be blinded by the excitement of winning, thus leading to unsafe, “in the moment” decisions.
Fans are crucial to sports, but they need to be smart and know where they belong. So scream, cheer, clap, high-five and jump for joy, but if you did not play in the game, do it from your seat.