How would you react?
I’d put my dukes up if a flood of strangers invaded the downtown office at The Salt Lake Tribune screaming and taunting. In the latest episode of fans being where they shouldn’t be, Thursday’s brawl at the UCCU Center in Orem should have two rounds of blame: New Mexico State’s K.C. Ross-Miller and the Utah Valley University fans who ran onto the court.
Mainly because they didn’t need to.
The Wolverines had a landmark win in the program, topping the visiting Aggies 66-61 in a game that put UVU into first place in the Western Athletic Conference, their first year in the conference.
Throw all scenarios out the window saying New Mexico State players responded violently or engaged in physical altercations with the 100-or-so fans who ran onto the court after Ross-Miller hurled the basketball at UVU guard Holton Hunsaker once the game had ended.
This fire started because UVU fans stormed the court when there was no plausible scenario for doing so. The win? Huge. It could propel the Wolverines to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in March. For awhile now, the focus on UVU’s upstart basketball program will be the brawl, the fans surrounding New Mexico State players on the floor in Orem seconds after the win.
It takes only one idiot to ignite a firestorm.
It is a tremendous disservice to what UVU coach Dick Hunsaker and his staff have done in recent years.
Fans being in places they aren’t supposed to be: the epidemic of college sports. It happens boatloads of times every year. It happened three times in 10 minutes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2012 when Utah’s student section rushed the field not once, not twice, but three times after beating BYU. Utah fans taunted BYU players, and one even backed away from BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall when Bronco starting stepping.
It again raises the question: Should players be forced to defend themselves when a cloud of zealots surrounds them? It goes beyond the players. When I was in college in 2008, I covered the Utes when they went 13-0. There was a lot of rushing the field, and it’s not all cheers and fist pumps. I saw several women knocked down and trampled during the Blackout win over TCU.
It can be a horrifying insight into the reality of what sport can do to people.
It happens everywhere, but that’s not an excuse.
This is probably the 184th column written about fans needing to police themselves, about how to conduct themselves in even the most-energetic and heightened of environments. But nothing will change until the NCAA takes a hard look at increasing security presences at college games.
The UVU fans who ran onto the court at the UCCU Center didn’t intend to start a brawl, but their presence on the court allowed it to ensue and escalate and become the latest story.
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