A melee that erupted after Utah Valley’s big win Thursday over rival New Mexico State is raising new concerns about the safety of players, officials and fans.
Minutes after Utah Valley topped New Mexico State, 66-61, in overtime in a Western Athletic Conference game, New Mexico State’s K.C. Ross-Miller threw a basketball, which reportedly hit Utah Valley player Holton Hunsaker about 20 feet away.
With fans surging onto the court and New Mexico’s D.K. Eldridge caught in the middle, the celebration apparently turned ugly with fists flying and grabbing.
Today, the team said it had suspended Ross-Miller.
“No matter what provoked K.C., what he did was inexcusable and hence the suspension,” New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said, according to ESPN.
Sports enthusiasts said, however, that it was a wild scene in a series of court-stormings that have now become almost routine in college basketball.
In February 2013, Duke University coach Mike Kryzyzewski took issue with spectators racing to the court after a loss at the University of Virginia turned nasty.
“You’re having fun,” he said at the time. “But get the players and the coaching staff off the court first. We deserve that type of protection.”
Jay Bilas, a basketball analyst for ESPN, said schools sent mixed messages though.
“[They say,] ‘We’d rather not have it.’ ‘We don’t like it.’ ‘We talk to our institutions about it,’” Bilas said. “But they really do like it. It gives them an air of excitement.”
Officially, colleges say they discourage fans from running onto the court. In December, the Southeastern Conference fined several schools for rushing the fields during football season.
Many schools have security officers in place to whisk away opposing teams and game officials, and some even monitor social media during games to see whether fans are planning something.