Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guidelines for Storming the Court or Field in College Sports

The SEC released a statement yesterday confirming that the conference did in fact fine Vanderbilt $25,000 for "allowing students to storm the court" after Saturday's upset win against top-ranked Florida. (You may recall that the SEC similarly fined Tennessee last season after fans ran onto the court following a win over then second-ranked Florida.)

On one hand, universities and athletic conferences should be concerned about the safety of players, coaches, officials, and fans when hundreds of people rush onto a basketball court or football field. And certainly college students have taken this celebratory practice too far in recent years, tearing down goal posts and hugging and tackling one another at half court in response to rather insignificant wins. In 2005, for instance, students at Kansas set a record for goalposts torn down; two of the wins that brought down the goalposts were against Missouri and Iowa State—not exactly football powerhouses. And this isn't the first fine for Vandy. The school was punished in 2005 when students stormed the basketball court after a 2005 NIT win over Wichita State. Really.

On the other hand, rushing onto the playing surface after a big win is a college tradition (and it makes for great SportsCenter footage). The NCAA just needs some guidelines that specify when storming the court or field is OK. Allow me to suggest the following:

  • Outside of Division I-A (or, as it is now known, "Division I Bowl Subdivision") football, rankings in college sports are insignificant for determining championships; often the rankings don't even give an accurate listing of the best teams. But the polls aren't entirely useless. They let casual fans know what teams are perceived to be the best—they tell casual fans what teams to get excited about. I propose that we use the major rankings (the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls) to determine when storming the field of play after a game is appropriate.

  • If the home team is ranked in the top 10, storming the field of play is not appropriate. An exception could be made for a top 10 team that beats a rival for the first time in 10 or more contests, but only if that rival is ranked in the top 5 and higher than the home team.

  • If the home team is ranked 11–25, fans may only storm the field of play following a victory over a team ranked #1 in one or both of the two polls. The only exception would involve defeating a rival ranked in the top 10 after a drought of 10 or more contests.

  • If the home team is not ranked, fans may storm the field of play following a victory over a team ranked in the top 10 or over any ranked conference opponent after a drought of 10 or more contests.

  • An unranked team that does not belong to the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big Twelve, Pac 10, or SEC may storm the field of play following a victory over a ranked team from one of these conferences. In football, this rule would include a victory over a ranked Notre Dame or Boise State squad. In men's basketball, the rule would include victories over a ranked Gonzaga team or any ranked team from the Missouri Valley, Mountain West, or Atlantic 10 conferences, Conference USA, the MAC, or the WAC, if this team has received at least three consecutive NCAA tournament bids and has spent at least one week in each of two consecutive years in the Top 25. Similar exceptions would be made for teams such as Old Dominion and Louisiana Tech in women's basketball, Ivy League schools in lacrosse, and so forth.

  • All of the above rules are null and/or void if the host venue is not filled to at least two-thirds of capacity. If a game isn't important enough to fill two-thirds of a stadium or arena, students do not have the right to storm the field of play.

  • Fans should never storm the field of play following an ice hockey contest.

I hope this helps.

Pictured: University of North Carolina students storm the court following a victory over Duke in 2003, a rare occasion when such a reaction would have been justified according to the rules above.

2 Comments:

Anonymous lcreekmo said...

This is brilliant. Good work!

11:32 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Really good!

7:51 PM  

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