After the Kansas State men's basketball team upset Kansas on Monday night, Kansas State's fans engaged in the traditional version of going nuts, college basketball style: they stormed the court. A bunch of them pinned Kansas Coach Bill Self in a corner, and one of them elbowed a Kansas player.
BL: Will, when did rushing the court become something other than what you've called "a spontaneous, silly explosion of joy?"
WL: I think it's always been that, but it's also always been extremely dangerous. You know, you look at the Kansas-Kansas State video--and I mean it really gets very dangerous there for a moment. Bill Self is clearly trapped. A Kansas state fan admitted he was going after the Kansas player. It's a scary situation. You know and, I was in college, I've always wanted to storm the court. I spent this week at the University of Iowa. I talked to all of their students; they said "You're not going to ban court-storming on us, are you? That's so fun!" And I get it. I understand it is fun. But it certainly feels like an anachronism, you know. And certainly it'll be inconceivable to think of this happening in 20 years.
Listen, nobody wants to be the one that says, "You have to ban court-storming." It makes you feel like an old fogey.Will Leitch
WL: Well, yeah. They're all right there. They're really right on top of them, particularly with student sections. When you think of the great college basketball arenas in the sport, they're all the ones where the students are right on top of the action: the Cameron Crazies being the most famous ones. At North Carolina a player can be throwing the ball in, and he's got two Duke students in each of his ears screaming at him when he's trying to throw the ball. In college basketball, frankly, at a lot of these smaller schools or even some of the larger ones, don't really have the money to pay for a security system if they had the impetus to do so. The only real league that's had a lot of success in banning court-storming has been the SEC. And a lot of that has been because they have told the teams there will be severe financial punishments. Your team will have to go on some probation, or your coach will be fined if this happens at your games. That also has to do with the fact that the SEC atmosphere is not always as exciting as it is at Duke basketball games, but they've had some success in that nonetheless.
BL: The limited degree to which there have been prohibitions surprises me a little bit because way back in 2004, a high school basketball player in Arizona was injured when the crowd stormed the court. He’s paralyzed now on his right side. Is it surprising to you that more teams and leagues haven't prohibited the practice?
WL: It is. Tradition is a factor in this. That's not so much a defense of the practice as much as it is an explanation. And so much of the excitement and the exuberance of college basketball is the students feeling connected to it, and feeling a part of it and feeling these spontaneous moments of joy. Listen, nobody wants to be the one that says, "You have to ban court-storming." It makes you feel like an old fogey. It makes you feel like you don't get what the college students are--they're just trying to have fun. And I certainly understand that. When you look at Joe Kay, the high school student you that were talking about, or some other situations, it's undeniably dangerous. And at this point, it's only a matter of time.
BL:Will, I have to say that over the course of all the conversations that you and I have had I have never heard you so ambivalent.
WL: I know. I feel terrible because just two years ago I wrote a piece for New York Magazine saying "Stop complaining about court-storming. It's for the kids. Have fun! Everyone relax!" It's just when you really take a step back, it really feels kind of insane that we allow it to happen. It does feel like maybe it's something that's time has passed.
This segment aired on February 28, 2015.