Opinion: K-State fans disappointed everyone in college hoops


That has become one of my favorite chants from student sections at college basketball games. Not sure of the origin. But under the category of home court advantage, it is fresh and to the point. It has some bite without being obscene. It is versatile and appropriate after a missed shot, a turnover, a foul or any other play that really impacts the opposing team.  It’s much better than calling a player an “asshole.” It’s more original than the trusty, old “airball” chant.

It’s certainly better than “Fuck (Enter Name of Rival School).”

And now we can say this to the fans at Kansas State University. You let the whole team down. You let your university down. You shamed the Big 12 Conference and college basketball woke up this morning with a bad taste in its mouth. Morning breath has never been so foul.

Kansas State fans celebrate Monday night's win over Kansas (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Kansas State fans celebrate Monday night’s win over Kansas (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

K-State claimed the top headline in sports news Monday night and into Tuesday morning – but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of breaking down the Wildcats’ 70-63 upset victory over No. 8 Kansas in Manhattan, there were pictures and videos and Vines of KSU fans storming the court in celebration, physically threatening Kansas players and pushing coach Bill Self into the scorer’s table as he tried to shake hands with Bruce Weber.

This insane demonstration – others may call it a celebration – has resulted in a police search for the fan who blindsided Kansas player Jamari Traylor as the Kansas team tried to leave the floor. It has resulted in an apology from Kansas State athletic director John Currie.

KSU Police

And once again, it has sparked the discussion about how to control these emotional outbursts and at least make them safer for everyone involved. It is one of the toughest puzzles in college athletics, but a solution needs to be found before there is a more tragic outcome. We can’t afford to wait until someone is seriously injured or, worse yet, killed.

Don’t laugh. It will happen eventually unless something is done now.

Watching on television Monday night, these Kansas State student fans (I’m sure the majority, if not all,were students) resembled an ant farm turned upside down as they sprinted onto the floor. I’ve never been a participant in a court storming, but I’m going to assume it is a safer feeling as a stormer than a stormee.

As someone who has been on press row during other stormings, I can tell it is frightening to have the mob headed in your direction. Whether you are a reporter with a laptop computer, a broadcaster with monitors and other equipment, a security guard, or a coach or a player trying to leave the court, there is a feeling of fear and helplessness that overcomes you in that moment. There were no reports of any injuries from Manhattan. But that’s kind of like saying that no one was hurt when the tornado leveled an entire town. The fear factor remains.

“It’s a ballgame,” Self said in his postgame press conference. “It’s not about chicken-winging somebody when the game’s over. Hopefully, they can get that corrected. It’s fine if you want to celebrate when you beat us, that’s your business. That’s fine. But at least it shouldn’t put anybody at risk from a safety standpoint.”

Another video posted on Twitter shows Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend, wrapping up an out-of-control fan in a headlock   – just for a brief time. ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Kansas associate AD Jim Marchiony confirmed it was Townsend but refuted the “headlock” description, saying Townsend was “appropriately attempting to protect KU players.”

There is video of Traylor being targeted by the fan who runs directly at the Kansas player and “chicken=wings” him in the back. Traylor appears to take a step toward the fan and then regains his composure.

“You’re asking for big problems,” Self said. “Because somebody’s going to hit a player, and the player’s going to retaliate, and you’re going to have lawsuits and cases, and it’s just not right. . . . If you do it, at least do it around center court. Don’t do it at the other bench.”

Self knows Traylor would have been suspended a game or more if he had acted on instinct. That would have been very tough pill to swallow, given that KU is still trying to wrap up at least a share of its 11th consecutive Big 12 regular season title.

Some would say the series is not a rivalry, because Kansas has won 49 of the past 54 meetings. That’s simply not true. Lawrence and Manhattan are not as close as Durham and Chapel Hill in North Carolina, but the proximity allows for high emotions. Kansas no longer has its Border War with Missouri since the Tigers left for the Southeastern Conference. And the history between the two schools includes episodes of bananas and hot dogs being thrown on the floor before games in the 1970’s.  Kansas State fans have been known to paint live chickens red and blue and throw them on the court.

In 1965, a K-State fan known as “Wildcatman” hid in Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, climbed inside the overhead scoreboard and lower a sign during the first half that read :”Go Cats, Kill Snob Hill Again.”

There is no love lost. The series is a big deal.

But  the Wildcats (14-15, 7-9 Big 12) aren’t going to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament for beating KU once. They didn’t win the conference tournament Monday night. They didn’t knock the Jayhawks (22-6, 11-4) out of first place in the Big 12. And, for crying out loud, K-State beat KU in Manhattan last season.  After storming the court last season, why do it again?

“We allowed it to happen again,” Self said.

The Jayhawks did blow an eight-point lead Monday night. But K-State could have acted like it had been there before.

Word was out that Weber had shown his players video of the 2014 game. That’s a motivational tool that may have helped.

“It brought a tear to my eye,” Weber said of watching the video with his team. But by storming the court, the fans were saying their team didn’t have a chance to win. They were surprised.

Maybe that viewing should have triggered an idea in Weber’s mind. He could have posted an ad in the student paper asking the fans not to rush the floor again. Security could have been increased – at least to slow the stream of fans and funnel them down one aisle. State police could have protected both coaches and both benches, keeping fans away from the true danger areas.

ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe was at the game and appeared on the Dan Patrick Show Tuesday morning. She has no problem with fans storming the court – even though it is her job to interview the winning coach immediately after the game. She said Kansas should take the court storming as the “ultimate compliment” and called the enthusiasm “a beautiful moment.”

No one will be calling it a beautiful moment when a student or someone else gets trampled to death. Conferences, especially the SEC, have written rules and imposed fines for these moments. They haven’t worked well enough. Just imagine what might happen in an SEC game this season if No. 1 Kentucky finally experiences defeat.

College basketball needs a commissioner, someone who can examine this and other issues, such as the length of the shot clock, freshman ineligibility, the so-called one-and-done rule, timeouts, official reviews, and other factors slowing down the game. The commissioner should be someone who played the game or coached the game, someone who understands the nuances of the game. Someone who can make informed decisions about the game – not a committee full of chancellors and presidents from the NCAA board.

The commissioner idea has been around a long time. Monday night’s melee in Manhattan is another reminder of the urgent need. There must a solution. And we need it as soon as possible.




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