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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Still More on Rushing the Court: In an update to this earlier essay and previous update, Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post writes on the dangers of rushing the court. He adds many more stories of injuries that have occurred, including members of the media being trampled, opposing players being punched and students attempting to get on the floor tripping and being crushed by the "human stampede."

Schools have taken various measures to try and either prevent the practice, or if that is impossible, to make it safer. Some schools user barriers such as bicycle racks, chains, or police barriers, but other schools have taken these down because they do not prevent the onslaught, only making it more dangerous. Some schools, such as the University of Florida, have taken the step I proposed, and begun disciplining students that run onto the floor. Students can be arrested and risk losing their tickets for the remainder of the season.

Also, what role does the media play in this? Athletic officials at some schools claim that students run onto the court only to get on television, and if stations such as ESPN stopped showing the students on the court, it would not continue. ESPN claims that it is not responsible for creating the postgame scenes, but I don't think this tells the entire story. Sports broadcasters also are not responsible for creating streakers or single fans that run onto the field of play, but they have a gentlemen's agreement to turn their cameras away to discourage the practice.

Rushing the court, however, is different in two other ways. One, unlike the solitary streaker, it is nearly impossible to make out any one student in the mob scenes. A student is much more likely to be shown in the stands during the game than in a mob at center court afterwards. This leads in to the second point, which is that students do not do this to get on television. The reasons for rushing the court, by and large, are to celebrate with the team and feel like you are part of the action. Many coaches like to describe their student sections as the "6th Man," and students want to celebrate on "their" home floor. This being said, a number of students have probably gotten the idea from watching other students rush the floor on ESPN or other college basketball networks, so the influence of the media should not be discounted.

The crux of this article, though, is that people have begun to get hurt. As I pointed out earlier, this could result in legal liability for universities, so as the problem receives greater media attention, expect more schools and arenas to begin cracking down on the practice and for "rushing the court" to become a part of history.

Thank you to reader John Stoner, a fellow Duke alum, for the pointer.


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