Last night saw South Carolina upset No. 1 Kentucky. Immediately the Gamecock fans rushed the floor to celebrate their upset victory.
By my unofficial count, this is the 67th time this season fans have stormed the court.
Before I criticize what has become an overblown action, there needs to be a disclosure notice on my part. In March of 1998, I was in the stands when the USC Trojans upset then No. 2 Arizona at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Coming into that game, Arizona was 16-0 going into the final two games of the regular season, and attempting to be the first Pac-10 team to go undefeated in conference play. The Trojans, behind an Adam Spanich 3-pointer at the overtime buzzer, upset the Wildcats 91-90 and my brother and I ran onto the court with numerous other Trojan fans to celebrate. Thus, I am not completely anti-court storming.
Now back to today.
With the proliferation of games being shown on the "ESPN family of networks" and various other networks, college students know rushing the floor might net them a showing on SportsCenter.
I understand being excited about a big win. Fans should be. That's what fans do. But this excitement boiling over to storming the court has gone to far.
So to help my fellow college basketball fans, I have created five rules for all fans to follow when even remotely considering rushing the floor.
I know how it is. It's late in the game. Your football school is going to notch a big win over a basketball power and you want to party. But cooler heads need to prevail, so here are the five rules you need to heed.
Rule 1: Never, under any circumstances, may you rush the floor before February 1st.
College basketball has a long season. Some would argue, (are you listening BCS Director Bill Hancock?) that the regular season is almost meaningless since 65 teams make the NCAA Tournament. This means, games are not truly important until late in the year. A good cutoff point for this is February 1st. Games before the end of college football are time fillers on the networks. Games between the BCS title game and Feb. 1 are a post-football cooling off period. After February 1st, teams have a month to play for conference titles and tournament seeding, so by all means if you upset a No. 1 seed, rush the court, just not until then.
Rule 2: If another school beat your opponent at home earlier in the week and rushed the floor, that nullifies your opportunity to rush the floor (AKA The North Carolina Rule).
January 16th saw No. 18 Georgia Tech earn a home win over No. 13 North Carolina, dropping the Tar Heels to 1-2 in the ACC. Yellow Jacket fans then ran onto the court. While Georgia Tech fans violated Rule No. 4, the North Carolina Rule was then invoked for the Heels next game at Wake Forest.
I know Wake. Its not fair Georgia Tech beat them before you did, but the same team can't have the court rushed twice in one week. It just gets to be overkill, especially when said team had dropped to 1-3 in the conference.
Rule 3: Fans of college basketball royalty should NEVER rush the court. (AKA The UCLA Rule)
It was an exciting moment at Pauley Pavilion. Former walk-on Mustafa Abdul-Hamid drained a buzzer-beater jump shot to defeat the Washington Huskies. Unbelievably, Bruins students began coming onto Nell and John Wooden Court. (Granted, it was not the whole student section, but still).
UCLA only hangs NCAA Championship banners and has 11 of them, but students are running onto the court over beating an underachieving Washington team?
Everyone knows college basketball royalty: UCLA, Duke, UConn, North Carolina, etc. I might understand if you have had some down times, maybe if your an Indiana still recovering from Kelvin Sampson texting through town, but UCLA has been to three Final Fours in the last decade. So no, you may not rush the court.
(Now in defense of Bruin fans, they just may have been geeked over football coach Rick Neuheisel showing off the mighty EagleBank Bowl Championship Trophy the week before).
Rule 4: Fans of ranked teams may not rush the floor.
While UConn fans also violated Rule No. 4 when they ran onto the court after upsetting then No. 1 Texas, they also violated this one since they were No. 21 at the time.
OK Georgia Tech fans, you can start listening again.
This year is wide-open. There really is not a clear cut favorite for winning the National Title, like Carolina was last season, and both UConn and Georgia Tech are heading to the tournament.
How ridiculous would it look if UConn wins the national title and during "One Shining Moment" you see a clip of Huskie fan storming the court over a win? Did they play the Celtics?
When I rushed the court back in 1998, USC was 8-19 and had zero hope of the postseason. There is a good chance either or both of those schools will be playing two months from now.
Rule 5: Do not begin rushing the floor until the final buzzer (This includes preparing to rush to the floor).
The game I have in mind is the Oregon vs. Arizona football game this past season. Oregon, with quarterback Jeramiah Masoli starting what would be its game-tying drive. During the drive, anticipating the upset, Wildcat students began jumping out of the stands and lining the sidelines (Amazingly, they even continued to do this after the Ducks had the ball in the red zone).
You absolutely have to stay in the stands until the final buzzer, because there is nothing that looks more foolish than being on the field while your team is losing (Well, maybe if you are the owner of an NFL team, Tom Benson, and your are hugging and celebrating in your box when in fact your kicker, Garrett Hartley, has missed the game-winning kick).
Rushing the court is fun. I hope that many fans get the same opportunity that I did. Just follow the simple rules above.
However, if you are a conference commissioner, such as the SEC's Mike Slive, it does not make it OK to fine institutions for its fans running onto the court. But that's for another time.
You can follow my thoughts on the sports world on Twitter at @plh55