Less than two weeks after Oklahoma State sophomore point guard Marcus Smart pushed a Texas Tech fan during a game but was not ejected, the NCAA has been prompted to make a rule change.
According to a memo from the NCAA, via ESPN.com's Andy Katz, if any player enters the stands, he will now automatically be assessed with a flagrant 2 (noncontact) and an ejection.
The memo explains why the change was made:
The clear intent of Rule 10-1.3.h is to prevent players from leaving the playing court and becoming involved in verbal, physical or any other type of confrontation with fans, team followers mascots or band members.
Well, this one seems like a no-brainer.
Unless a player is going to give a hug to a friend or family member, a foray into the stands typically ends extremely poorly, and potentially dangerously. It happened with Smart, who shoved a Red Raiders fan, was given a three-game suspension and must now work to rebuild his reputation. It happened with Metta World Peace in the NBA and everyone else involved during the "Malice at the Palace."
No matter the level of competition, if a player goes into the stands during a game, bad things are going to happen. It's over the line, and while fans certainly shouldn't be exempt from punishment either, an ejection for the player is warranted.
At the time of this most recent incident, many, such as USA Today's Eric Prisbell, were surprised that Smart wasn't ejected:
Marcus Smart gets a three-game suspension but was not ejected from the game. Why wasn't he ejected?— Eric Prisbell (@EricPrisbell) February 9, 2014
But as Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw explained, via Katz, the referees simply didn't have the authority to make that call. Now, that's no longer the case:
We had a rule that if a player left the court in order to participate in a fight but not one to interact with the fans. We discussed that the rule was intended to cover (a player interaction with a fan), but it wasn't in there. Now if any player leaves the court to have a physical altercation with a fan it is a flagrant 2 and an automatic ejection.'
Let's hope that this rule never has to come into play.
Physical interactions between fans and players should never happen. And although emotion sometimes gets the better of players, hopefully this added punishment will prevent these kinds of incidents in the future.
Smart's situation was an unfortunate one. Fortunately, no one was harmed during the incident, and this new change helps establish clearer rules for both players and referees.