College basketball incidents involving fans must end

aconklin@thetribunenews.comMarch 7, 2014 

As Dan Patrick said on his national radio show Friday, if he’s talking about UC Santa Barbara-Hawaii men’s basketball, it can’t be good.

If you haven’t seen the video, here’s what happened. More than halfway through the first half of Thursday’s game, Hawaii coach Gib Arnold received a technical foul after protesting an intentional foul call against one of his players. While Arnold was talking to an official in front of his bench, a young man wearing a Class of ’14 T-shirt and believed to be a student at UC Santa 

Barbara, charged out of the stands and got in Arnold’s face. The fan was shoved away by two of Arnold’s players but appeared to encourage the players to come after him. He quickly retreated to the stands and high-fived another young man wearing the same Class of ’14 T-shirt.

After returning to his seat, the young man was finally approached by security, escorted out of the building and arrested.

The most troubling part of Thursday’s incident was that the fan had such easy access to run both onto the court and then back off without being stopped. And while it happened at UC Santa Barbara, it could happen at any college basketball venue, especially in the Big West Conference. It’s easy at first glance to take UC Santa Barbara to task, but mostly because of budget restraints, there’s little basketball security at most small schools. A couple of people told me Friday the same thing that happened at UC Santa Barbara could easily happen at Cal Poly.

Unfortunately, there seems to be more crazy fan scenes at college basketball games than ever before. Thursday’s incident was one of several troubling events that have happened this season:

• Last week, dozens of fans charged the court during an altercation that happened following a game between New Mexico State and Utah Valley. That incident was sparked by a New Mexico State player throwing the ball off a Utah Valley player’s leg in apparent frustration over the Aggies’ overtime loss in a game for the conference lead.

• In February, Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart, one of the nation’s best players, received a three-game suspension for shoving a Texas Tech fan behind the basket. While Smart was clearly in the wrong for making contact with a fan, that so-called Texas Tech superfan later admitted he called Smart “a piece of crap” and agreed not to attend any more Red Raiders games this season.

• Earlier on the same day Smart erupted, Oregon guard Jason Calliste got into a verbal confrontation with at least one Arizona State student in the first half of a game in Tempe, and another student was accused of spitting on an Oregon assistant coach and an Oregon trainer. The student who spit on the two Oregon staff members later had his tickets taken away by Arizona State officials.

Fortunately, no one was injured during Thursday’s incident. But given all of the other ugly incidents that have happened, it seems only a matter of time before something really unfortunate occurs. What if the fan that came after Arnold on Thursday had a knife or some other weapon?

Clearly something needs to be done to limit fan access to the court and protect players and coaching staffs. College basketball coaches make tons and tons and tons of money. Maybe they could all take a little less money and leave their schools with more money to pay for better security.

The Associated Press reported Friday that the NCAA had no comment on the UC Santa Barbara incident, calling it a conference matter.

Wrong. It’s the NCAA’s responsibility to step in and work with coaches and school administrators to ensure we don’t have any more incidents at places such as UC Santa Barbara, Texas Tech, Arizona State and Utah Valley.

We need March Madness. The NCAA Tournament is the greatest sporting event there is with its emotion, drama and finality. But we don’t need idiots marching onto the court with their madness.

Ashley Conklin is The Tribune’s sports editor. He can be reached at 781-7989 or via email at aconklin@thetribunenews.com He can also be followed on Twitter @acsloduck24.

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