Another college basketball season. Another court storming injury. Another spirited national debate over whether fans should be able to rush the floor in celebration of a memorable victory.
The latest incident involved Des Moines Register columnist Randy Peterson, who covered Thursday night's matchup between rivals Iowa and Iowa State. He suffered a fractured tibia and fibula when he was knocked to the ground as Cyclones fans stormed the floor at Hilton Coliseum after their team's come-from-behind 83-82 victory.
The compound fracture required surgery to insert a rod into Peterson's left leg but it apparently did not harm his sense of humor.
— Randy Peterson (@RandyPete) December 11, 2015
Peterson told the Dan Patrick Show on Friday morning that he suspected Iowa State fans would rush the floor after guard Monte Morris sank a game-winning floater in the lane with 10 seconds to go. He left his courtside seat in hopes of getting out of the way in time, but an on-rushing fan appeared to clip him before he could make it to the interview room on the other side of the floor.
"I don't even think it was a student that plowed into me," Peterson said.
"I was not trampled. I was knocked to the ground, but as soon as I was on the ground, there was security all around me. They blocked off the area. As soon as they could get through the crowd, the paramedics were there and I was on a stretcher."
— Keith Murphy (@MurphyKeith) December 11, 2015
The incident at Iowa State has already reignited discussion over whether court storming should have a place in college basketball anymore. It's a tradition that players and fans have long enjoyed, yet a handful of scary incidents in recent years have shown the risks often outweigh the fun.
In Jan. 2013, NC State forward C.J. Leslie had to lift a fellow student to safety after he was thrown from his wheelchair during the court storming that followed the Wolfpack's upset of Duke. In Feb. 2014, a melee erupted at Utah Valley when New Mexico State players exchanged punches with on-rushing fans just after the final buzzer.
Last February, a knucklehead Kansas State fan rushed at Kansas forward Jamari Traylor and body checked him on his way off the floor during a court storming in the wake of an upset victory. Neither head coach was safe either as Bill Self and Bruce Weber both got pinned against the scorer's table by the crush of on-rushing bodies.
The most severe court storming injury of all came in Feb. 2004 when an avalanche of Tucson High students spilled onto the court after 6-foot-6 senior Joe Kay clinched a rivalry victory with a two-handed breakaway dunk. The torn carotid artery and stroke Kay suffered that day left him paralyzed on one side and robbed him of many of the gifts that enabled him to become the valedictorian of his class, win awards for his saxophone skills and earn a volleyball scholarship to Stanford.
"My injuries are something I'll have to deal with the rest of my life," Kay told Yahoo Sports last year. "If court-storming didn't exist, or if none of the people at my high school had ever really seen it on TV, it probably never would have happened. People claim it's a tradition but we shouldn't have tradition if it's unsafe. It doesn't make sense."
In reality, there's no perfect solution to the court storming debate.
Conferences could prevent court storming if the penalty for the home team was strong enough, but college basketball would undeniably lose some of the spontaneity and fun that separates it from other sports. Conferences could allow court storming to continue virtually unchecked, but it's inevitable that someday a player will snap and clobber a taunting fan or someone will get trampled and suffer life-threatening injuries the way Kay did.
It's also tough to implement the middle ground of trying to delay a court storming long enough to allow opposing players and coaches, referees and media to get off the floor. Is it realistic for schools to have a security force large enough to keep thousands of excited students off the floor after a buzzer beater for 60 to 90 seconds?
That's the outcome Peterson favors in spite of the logistical challenges.
"I'm OK with it, but let the people who need to get off the floor, get off the floor," Peterson told the Dan Patrick Show. "Iowa State [has] a new basketball coach in Steve Prohm, they're ranked No. 4 in the country and they're coming off a horrendous football season. Iowa State fans need to blow off some steam. Some of the students had been camping out since Monday night for this game. So I get it and I'm not against it. I just wish there could be some way to get everyone who needs to be off the floor off the floor."
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