Much ado about court storming

Published 5:55 pm Friday, March 8, 2024

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Recently, I was watching basketball with my brother. When the game we were watching ended (congrats to NC State for beating Boston College), we flipped the channel over to catch the last two minutes of the Wake Forest vs. Duke game.

The game went down to the wire, and our attention was glued to the screen as the seconds wound down on the clock and both teams traded baskets. It was close, but Wake Forest managed to pull ahead enough to secure the upset win as time ran out.

But as thrilling as the end of the game was, it was quickly overshadowed by what happened next. Ecstatic Wake Forest fans stormed the court immediately to celebrate, but the Duke players and coaching staff didn’t have enough time to leave and were caught in the fray too. Kyle Filipowski, one of Duke’s star players, was injured when passing fans collided with him (and one even reached out to push his back, according to video footage).

This happened just a month after Iowa’s women’s basketball star Caitlin Clark got knocked around as fans stormed the court after a surprising win against the highly ranked team.

While these aren’t the first examples of injuries while fans rush the court, these two incidents with high-profile star athletes have reignited the conversation about whether or not the celebratory practice should still be allowed.

The Associated Press quoted Filipowski after the game as saying, “Just trying to get my way off the court, and you know, you’ve got these crazy college students just doing whatever they want. It’s got to be a little more protective when things like that happen.”

Duke’s coach Jon Scheyer, in the same article, flat out called for a ban of the practice. “How many times does a player have to get into something where they get punched or they get pushed or they get taunted right in their face? It’s a dangerous thing.”

In the interview with Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes, he said that he doesn’t like court stormings because they don’t feel safe. And he promised they would do a better job next time.

It seems like there are a couple options to address the matter going forward: allow fans to rush the court after a game, allow fans to rush but with restrictions/consequences, or to ban the practice altogether. What complicates the matter is that there’s no universal policy across college basketball. Some conferences impose fines for court storming. Others don’t offer any consequences. And some schools don’t even have policies for these unruly celebrations.

A recent article from ESPN delved deeper into the matter, interviewing a number of people with different perspectives.

The director for the National Center of Spectator Sports Safety suggested preventive measures such as discontinuing alcohol sales, planning alternative celebrations, and urging from coaches and league officials for fans to remain in their seats. But she didn’t think extra security staff members would be feasible to block fans.

One student from Syracuse said seeing security just encourages them to move faster to try to slip by them.

A former manager from George Mason suggested making the winning team forfeit their win if fans storm the court afterwards.

A person who was severely injured in a court storm 20 years ago was in favor of arresting fans for going where they aren’t allowed.

Sherika Montgomery, commissioner of the Big South, worried that banning court storms would hurt attendance numbers, with disappointed fans deciding not to bother showing up.

One ESPN analyst said there needs to be a plan in place to get the opposing team off the court safely. That same sentiment was echoed by Nebraska’s athletic director… who recently participated in a court storm himself.

The Creighton fan club recently sent out messages to remind the crowd to storm the court “the right way.” The result was apparently a mostly orderly jog of fans after the initial rush.

As for the NCAA itself, they said decisions about court storming should be made by the conferences. During tournaments and championships, they work with host venue security and law enforcement for safety plans. They also noted that most of those venues have a layout/design that helps mitigate court rushing.

It’s clear from reading all these statements that there are a lot of options, but no one is sure what exactly will work best. Sports can be extremely emotional events, for both the players and the fans. No matter what, it’s going to be hard to contain a large group of people who are extremely excited about a thrilling victory. And there are always going to be a few jerks who don’t care about being respectful. Adding alcohol to the mix doesn’t help either.

So, in my opinion, it seems like it would be difficult to outright ban the practice. At least right away, while it is still a big part of what fans normally do when they want to celebrate. (ESPN’s article noted that there have been about 3 court storms per week over the past three months of the basketball season.) Without any sort of consequences in place, fans aren’t going to simply stop overnight.

Personally, I think the key is slowing fans down from reaching the court, instead of just banning the celebration. At the Wake Forest game, the fans were practically toeing the sidelines before the clock even reached zero. Of course, Duke couldn’t leave the court in time.

A slowdown could be achieved through extra security officials and perhaps some physical barriers that would reroute fans from the quickest way to the court. It wouldn’t stop them completely, but it would give players and coaches the opportunity to exit the court beforehand.

And like the example from Creighton, it would also be helpful to have more fans reminding each other to behave better, even when excited.

Storming the court is supposed to be something fun for people, a moment of joy in victory. It shouldn’t resemble an angry mob destroying everything, and everyone, in its path.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.