Allegany Communications Sports

If you saw the court-storming by the Wake Forest fans on Saturday — and you have; everybody has, because it came at the expense of Duke — you saw Duke star Kyle Filipowski being helped through the mass of humanity by teammates and Duke staff after he was involved in a collision with a Wake Forest fan.

Our most recent court storming came as Wake Forest (the favored team, actually) beat the No. 8-ranked Blue Devils, 83-79, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was followed by the expected outrage from the talking heads on ESPN, Duke head coach Jon Scheyer, Filipowski himself, whom Scheyer said suffered a sprained ankle, and regret from Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes and athletic director John Currie.

And for good measure, Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner/puppet Jim Phillips chimed in with a statement, saying the “safety of our student-athletes is always our top priority.”

Clearly that should always be the top priority, not only for the student-athletes but for the students who are not athletes, because court stormings can be very frightening and dangerous events — nobody knows what they’re doing, where they’re going or why they are going; they’re just going full steam ahead, and in many instances the steam has been fueled by an afternoon or evening of alcohol consumption.

The latest storm comes a month after Iowa star Caitlin Clark was either knocked to or flopped to the floor during a court-storming by the Ohio State fans after the Buckeyes (the No. 2-ranked team in the nation, actually) defeated the Hawkeyes. That it was Clark who was involved caught more attention nationally than most court stormings had in the past. Now that it’s the Duke men’s team and one of its players — its best player — was injured, something is finally likely to be done about it.

But what? Fans rushing the court after a big win by the home team is as old as college basketball itself. It can be an exhilarating and unifying experience, but as plain as the nose on your face, it can be a very, very dangerous experience.

“When are we going to ban court-storming?” Scheyer said afterward. “Like, when are we going to ban that? 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.”

I’m with him on the danger, but “taunted” might have been the wrong word for the basketball coach at Duke to use when complaining about the treatment his players receive on the road, as the taunting visiting players have been subjected to at Cameron Indoor Stadium has been personal and vile for years on end. So much so that the previous Duke coach, much to his credit, once warned the Cameron Crazies if he heard one word about D.J. Strawberry’s father Darryl during the game, he would forfeit the game to Maryland on the spot.

Things came to a head on Saturday with Duke trailing by four with 1.8 seconds left, with one inbounds left for some type of miracle finish. The fans had already moved down to the court area and just as the inbounds was intercepted near midcourt, they were at full sprint as the horn sounded.

“I mean, like everyone knew it was coming,” Filipowski said. “They were up four with 2 seconds left. Everyone was just waiting for the moment. Did they do anything to stop it? They didn’t do anything to stop it. That’s just ridiculous.”

Filipowski’s collision happened as he walked from one sideline to the other toward the Duke bench with his arms raised to brace for a potential collision. His right leg connected with the leg of a fan running by him (some are saying it looked like he could have hurt himself when he tripped the fan) and spun off balance. He was then helped off the court by a manager and a teammate.

“I felt a bunch of hits on my body …” Filipowski said. “I absolutely felt like it was personal. Intentional for sure. There’s no reason where they see a big guy like me trying to work my way off the court and they can’t just work around me, you know?”

Yeah, we know. It was neither personal nor intentional; it was stupid spontaneous, so just get over yourself, kid.

But as Charles Dudley Warner, not Mark Twain, once said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” So, what do we do about the act of court-storming? The Wake Forest athletic director said the arena staff had practiced for the eventuality prior to Saturday’s game, but clearly they did not practice enough.

But in fairness, what do you do?

“When I played, at least it was 10 seconds and you storm(ed) the court,” Scheyer said. “Now, the buzzer doesn’t even go off and they’re running on the floor. This has happened to us a bunch this year. … I don’t want this to take away at all from Wake. They earned it, they deserve the win.”

Last year when unranked Maryland upset No. 3 Purdue, 68-54, the crowd had begun to surround the court in the final seconds of the game when Maryland coach Kevin Willard called time and signaled for his team to begin the handshake line so that Purdue could safely leave the court. Once they had, Maryland let the final seconds run out and the storm ensued.

Maryland had that game safely in the bag by that time. That wasn’t the case on Saturday, as a foul on a Laettner-like 3-pointer could have potentially tied the game for Duke, so what is the answer?

It seems the only answer would be more event-staff security, which, of course, costs money, which, of course, most of the greedy institutes of learning are not likely to part with.

Thus, as the NCAA has been rendered all but dead, unless the conferences are willing to hand down heavy fines for storming, there doesn’t seem to be an answer.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT