Kansas State University

K-State athletic director apologizes to KU for court-storming problems (VIDEO)

K-State fans rush the court Monday night in Manhattan as K-State defeated 8th ranked Kansas 70-63. Its the second straight year Kansas was handed a loss in Manhattan.(February 23, 2015)
K-State fans rush the court Monday night in Manhattan as K-State defeated 8th ranked Kansas 70-63. Its the second straight year Kansas was handed a loss in Manhattan.(February 23, 2015) The Wichita Eagle

Kansas State’s 70-63 victory over Kansas has become a national topic because of the controversial court-storming that took place Monday at Bramlage Coliseum when it was over.

Tuesday was filled with news of reactions.

First, K-State athletic director John Currie issued an apology, saying the Wildcats “fell short” of their security responsibilities while students sprinted onto the court to celebrate. Then K-State police asked for help in identifying a K-State fan who appeared to deliberately collide shoulder-first with University of Kansas junior Jamari Traylor.

Police said later in the day they were no longer looking for the fan, adding he cooperated with authorities. No arrests were made, and a K-State student apologized for the incident in a letter to the campus newspaper.

After that, KU officials issued a statement in support of assistant Kurtis Townsend for grabbing a K-State fan who was taunting and gesturing at a group of KU players trying to exit the floor, calling it appropriate protection.

ESPN – which broadcast Monday’s game – dedicated the entirety of its “Outside the Lines” broadcast to the incident, with host Andy Katz wondering whether it could serve as a tipping point for change.

“I apologize to athletics director Sheahon Zenger, Coach Bill Self and the KU basketball team for the unfortunate situation in which they were placed last night at the conclusion of our basketball game,” Currie said in a statement. “Our security staff, which in similar past postgame celebrations has, according to our procedures and rehearsals, provided a solid human barrier to allow the teams to conduct a postgame handshake and safely leave the court, was unable to get into proper position quickly enough last night and was overwhelmed by the fans rushing the floor.

“K-State prides itself on providing a great game atmosphere in a safe environment and did successfully execute our security plan when we defeated KU last year in Bramlage as well as in 2011. Although no one was hurt last night, we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident. We are disappointed that we did not do better.”

What went wrong

The wild scene began when K-State students poured onto the floor the moment the final buzzer sounded. It has been a disappointing season for the Wildcats (14-15, 7-9 Big 12), but this was reason to celebrate.

In past years, K-State has roped off an area near the scorer’s table so coaches and players can exchange postgame handshakes and exit the court without fan interaction. But that was not the case Monday.

What went wrong? Currie cited a number of factors.

For starters, he said, K-State players climbed on top of the scorer’s table immediately after the game instead of meeting at midcourt, where most court-stormings are centered. That unexpected change made it impossible for late-arriving security to form a wall between fans and the visiting team.

The game was also not decided until the final minute, giving security less time to prepare for the scrum than after recent victories over KU.

“It is disingenuous to start saying this happened or that happened, because it sounds like you are making excuses,” Currie said. “We just did not get out as fast as we were able to get out last year.

“Part of that was because of the velocity with which the crowd came down and part of it was with the trajectory of how the crowd came down. That probably caught us off guard in terms of our positioning.

“Regardless, we should have done a better job. We should have been out there. Our people feel very badly about it.”

A wave of bodies ended up beating K-State security to the scorer’s table, pushing Self and K-State coach Bruce Weber up against it. As they stood pressed together, pinned near the sideline, Weber extended his arms and tried to shield Self.

When initial attempts to move the students were unsuccessful, Weber was forced to clear his own path.

“Finally, I said ‘to heck with it’ and started pushing people out of the way, which is sad,” Weber said. “You want to enjoy it but also be respectful of your opponent and make sure they get off the court safely.”

Self was also displeased. It was the third time this month Kansas has witnessed a court-storming. Oklahoma State and West Virginia did the same following upset victories.

“There were several students that hit our players,” Self said. “I’m not saying like with a fist, but when you storm the court, you run in, you bump everybody, stuff like that.

“This has got to stop. I think court-storming is fine, but certainly you can get security to the point where players’ safety is not involved like it is here the last several times.”

Meanwhile, at least one KU player was the target of a running shove from a fan. Traylor, who absorbed contact from the fan while moving toward the tunnel, did not retaliate. Townsend grabbed a K-State fan who had his back turned to him shortly after.

In a text message, Townsend said he was trying to protect KU’s players as they exited the court and directed The Eagle to a statement released by KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony.

“Kurtis Townsend was appropriately attempting to protect KU players from a fan who appeared to be approaching several of our players,” Marchiony said in the release. “The safety of our players was our No. 1 concern last night, and one fan had already deliberately body-checked Jamari Traylor. (Kudos to our players, incidentally, for keeping their cool.)

“I’ve seen in a couple of instances Kurtis’ action called a ‘headlock.’ That’s a stretch, considering that he had his hands on the fan for all of about two seconds.”

Currie said fans who deliberately made contact with a KU player will face consequences, including criminal charges and banishment from future K-State sporting events.

“We are actively reviewing video and working in concert with law enforcement to identify any fan who intentionally touched visiting players or personnel,” Currie said. “We will take appropriate action with such identified persons, including turning over all evidence to law enforcement so that any applicable charges can be filed.”

Scary incidents

The Big 12 issued a statement saying it is reviewing the postgame celebration at K-State.

Conference protocol states that all league members should develop a system that ensures “the protection of teams, coaches, officials and administrative staffs, particularly in the event of a postgame celebration.” Responsibility falls on the home team.

But there is little chance of the Big 12 issuing penalties. Unlike the Southeastern Conference, which fines teams as much as $50,000 for court-stormings, there is no penalty for rushing the court in the Big 12.

Most conferences allow the celebrations to occur. Most go off without incident, but there have been some scary ones in recent years.

Joe Kay, a Stanford recruit, was paralyzed in 2004 when he was injured during a court-storming at a high school game.

C.J. Leslie of North Carolina State rescued a disabled student who had fallen from his wheelchair during a court-storming after beating Duke.

And fights broke out between players and fans when New Mexico State players objected to a court-storming at Utah Valley last season.

Longtime coach Fran Fraschilla, who worked Monday’s game as a color analyst for ESPN, remembers winning a conference championship at Manhattan College years ago. His school’s fans rushed the floor and nearly trampled his wife and infant son.

“Court-storming is a part of college basketball, for better or worse,” Fraschilla said. “But there are certainly ways you can ensure as much as you possibly can the security of the players and coaches and court personnel so nobody gets hurts.”

Currie, who worked at Tennessee when the SEC implemented its court-storming fines, wants to see it all stop.

“I am 100 percent against court-storming,” Currie said. “I am against field-storming.

“That takes a little fun out of it, right? But I am risk management, and I think it is not safe and it is not a good idea. We should do everything we can to prevent it.”

It may be time, he added, to stop glorifying the postgame celebrations on TV and in other media.

“I am not making excuses for what happened last night,” Currie said. “We need to do a better job than we did, and we will. We apologize to the KU folks.

“We have examined what happened and the different factors that caused things not to work as smoothly as they did last year when we beat KU. Bottom line is: We beat them three out of five years after not beating them very often. We have to grow into that role.”

Contributing: Associated Press

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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