June 24, 2017

To storm or not to storm?

The controversial phenomena which breeds excitement and fear into the hearts and minds of sports fans on campuses across America

K-State students on the floor following a 70-63 win over Kansas (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

Editor’s note: The events surrounding this weekend’s St. Bonaventure/VCU game brought back a debate which is all too familiar to college basketball fans. Home fans of the Bonnies stormed the floor on what appeared to be a game winner, however, the game wasn’t over. St. Bonaventure was assessed a technical foul, VCU made the free throw and went on to win in overtime. As court storming was debated nationwide, Travis wanted to look a little deeper into this phenomenon. 

The buzzer sounds. The game is over. The home team has just knocked off a top ranked team. Fans leave their seats and rush the court in sheer excitement over the outcome of the game they had just watched so intensely. For many, this act is the pinnacle of anxious excitement before a game and the intense roller coaster of emotions which take place throughout the trials and tribulations of a big matchup. Pandemonium ensues.

For others, often the losing team’s fans, its an extra jab into the side as they try to contemplate how their team could have possibly blown such a lead, or lost to such an inferior opponent. On top of that, thousands of fans of their rival school are shoving the loss even further into their faces. The disparity between emotions is vast.

Indiana fans rush the court following their upset of Kentucky in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Inside the Hall)

In the sunflower state of Kansas, Big 12 basketball reigns supreme during the cold winter months of January and February. The perennial powerhouse Kansas Jayhawks are often the team to beat in the Big 12 Conference, while just 85 miles west on I-70, Kansas State University, another school known for having a proud fanbase, loves nothing more than knocking off their hated in-state rival. Two fans on opposite extremes of this phenomena know the wide ranges of emotions too well.

During the 2015 Sunflower Showdown, many pundits nationally found that security did not properly protect players and coaches from the storm of fans on the court at Bramlage Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of JoeBush.net)

For Kansas alum (and Tailgate Society contributor) Sarah Kelly Shannon, court rushing following losses has become a semi-regular occurrence for fans of the Jayhawks. “We usually see it coming,” Sarah said, however:” Mostly I’m mad at KU for playing like garbage.” When asked about circumstances of court storming going too far: “It only seems violating when jackasses shove our players. In some cases, I do worry about safety – but in general I think its their court and they can do what they want.” While Sarah provides some pretty fair perspective, outspoken (and often nameless) folks on Twitter disagree.

On the other side of the Sunflower Showdown, Kansas State senior (and widely acclaimed super-fan) Von Wiltz has now had two opportunities to rush the floor vs Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum in 2014 and 2015. Below is Wiltz’ testimony to this life-changing moment in his life:

Rushing the court is a feeling unmatched by anything I’ve ever experienced. After forty minutes of passionate yelling, adrenaline is the only thing willing me to even rush after upsetting the in-state rival. After a couple minutes of highfiving people the adrenaline rush wears off slightly and a desire for air becomes apparent. It’s at this moment where I think to myself “Suffocating here wouldn’t be the worst way to end this journey.” Rushing the court is dangerous and it’s a miracle more people don’t get trampled but it’s a necessary risk to do something that every college student should have on their bucket list!

The feeling and adrenaline of court-rushing is truly second-to-none.

Iowa State students flood the court inside Hilton Coliseum on January 28, 2012; the Cyclones’ first win vs Kansas since 2005.

Since 2011 when Fred Hoiberg took over as the head coach of Iowa State, optimism and excitement about Cyclone Basketball spread quickly throughout the state of Iowa and in Cyclone households across America. The dormant phrase known as Hilton Magic was nothing more than a piece of ancient history in Cyclone athletic lore. As Fred Hoiberg began the rebuild of his beloved Iowa State Cyclones, the team’s first big moment back on a national stage came on January 28, 2012, as the Cyclones notched a 72-64 win vs #5 Kansas in Hilton Coliseum. The magic had returned to the frozen tundra of Ames, Iowa, and Iowa State basketball once again became a source of warmth and energy for fans across the state.

Following this upset of #5 Kansas, the Iowa State Cyclones have notched numerous wins over ranked opponents, featuring court stormings vs #9 Baylor, #7 Michigan and #1 Oklahoma. For Iowa State alum (and Tailgate Society contributor) Jared Leeper, rushing the floor remains a top memory as a fan and student at Iowa State. “During my time as a student at ISU, basketball didn’t beat a single ranked team,” Jared explained, “When we finally got the chance after the KU win in 2012, it was a moment I’ll never forget, celebrating with my fellow students on the floor.”  When asking Leeper about his opinion of court storming, I received a very reasonable yet impassioned response: “I understand being anti court & field storm for safety concerns, but if you’re against it because you feel your team is above it, you just hate fun.”

In December of 2015, court storming in Ames became a national story, and these topics about court storming took center stage.

Iowa State students rush the floor vs the Iowa Hawkeyes (Photo courtesy of the Des Moines Register)

On December 12, 2015, the #4 Iowa State Cyclones overcame a 20-point deficit in the 2nd Half to defeat their in-state rival Iowa Hawkeyes, 83-82. The questionable court storming by many became tragic as Des Moines Register’ columnist, and Iowa State beat reporter Randy Peterson suffered a compound leg fracture amidst the postgame madness.

Towards the end of the game, Randy took his usual walk from his court-side media seats to the opposite side of the arena to the media room. In his own words:

We walk as close to the scorers table as we can, so as not to get in the way of handshake lines, players running off the court, refs running off  the court, etc. Monte Morris made the shot and I walked  the same path from my seat to the media work  room that I’d walked 100s of times. For some reason, it was a a late-reacting crowd; I’d walked ¾ the length of the court,  carrying my laptop, press notes and cell phone. I was almost off the court when suddenly I saw the crowd rushing. I got blindsided on my right side, then I stumbled  to my left, and  my left leg got tangled with someone who was running onto the  floor.  I went down, obviously, looked at my left leg and saw that my foot wasn’t pointing in the proper direction.

Little did Randy Peterson know he would soon become the topic of conversation across the country.

Randy Peterson appeared on the Dan Patrick Show hours following surgery. (Photo courtesy of Fox Sports Marquette and the Dan Patrick Show)

A walk Randy had made numerous times prior to interview Cyclone players postgame became a trip he’d never forget. In the days following the incident, numerous debates occurred in local and national media platforms regarding the safety of court-storming, and why a Top 5 team would rush the court against a non-ranked team. Randy, despite suffering a grueling injury worse than anyone in a court storming, provided some interesting feedback about the premise for court storming, and how logistical changes could be made in the future to prevent future injuries:

As odd as this may sound, that incident didn’t change my opinion of court-storming, Immediate and  raw and  passionate emotion is the reason we embrace college athletics. I wish that there was a way that everyone who needs to get off the floor can do so before court-storming happens. I don’t have the answer for  that. In the instance  of reporters, one way for us to avoid emotional and  passionate crowds, is that if we’re seated on the baseline, have our press row seat on the same end of the arena that the media room is located.

As the debate continues on the safety and purpose of court storming, the arguments for and against this phenomena are almost certain to continue on campus throughout social media. As fans and students throughout the nation continue to fanatically support their teams, we hope they take part in this fun activity known as court storming while also considering the safety of everyone around them. At the end of the day, college sports is supposed to be fun, and no one wants an injury to ruin the fun and jubilation of a big upset win.

A special thank you to Sarah Kelly Shannon, Von Wiltz, Jared Leeper and the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson for contributing to this article. 

ESPN
Travis Halm 19 Articles
Staff Writer

Travis Halm is an Iowa State Alum living in Omaha, Nebraska. A native of Haverhill, Iowa, Travis has lived throughout the Midwest and in Texas, providing him insight on the Big 12, the SEC, and a wide variety of other sports topics. Travis follows the Cyclones closely, in addition to the Cardinals, Packers, Texas A&M and rarely turns down a ticket to a good sporting event.

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