Stormy situation: Should fans be allowed to rush courts?

Some traditions in sports — like rushing basketball courts or football fields after an epic victory — just seem right.

Your cruddy 4-18 squad just beat the No. 1 team in the nation? GO!

Your high school just qualified for state for the first time in 40 years? GO, GO!!

Your team just stormed back from an 18-point deficit to win at the buzzer to advance in the NCAA Tournament? GO, GO, GO!!!

Those moments live forever on SportsCenter and/or in the minds of players, fans, coaches and parents.

  York fans rush the court after being beckoned by team members during the Addison Trail Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Addison. Joe Lewnard/

There have been recent incidents, however, that have resulted in serious injuries. Some are recent, like when Duke's Kyle Filipowski limped off the court after colliding with Wake Forest fans, and Iowa's Caitlin Clark went down in a heap after ramming into an Ohio State fan.

  Student's storm the flool after Lake Park defeated Glenbard North during a regular-season game in Roselle on Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. John Starks/

Other incidents date back decades.

  Students storm the floor after Lake Zurich beat Rolling Meadows in the championship game of the Class 4A Lake Zurich regional tournament on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. John Starks/

“I was in Tucson in the early 2000s when a court storming happened at Tucson High and left a kid with a stroke,” East Aurora Athletic Direrctor Fil Torres wrote in an email. “He was going to go to Stanford on scholarship for volleyball.

“As a member of the University of Arizona basketball team (from 2001-04), we had a couple games where fans stormed the court, and it was pure chaos. We also had one at a home game after we beat UCLA where we all left the court because it was too suffocating and hard to even breathe.”

Athletic directors at Illinois high schools are taking precautions to try and prevent court storming during the IHSA playoffs.

During the Fenton regional final, three security guards stood in front of one student section, while school officials from the Niles Notre Dame kept an eye on their fans. At the Addison Trail sectional final, a rope was placed in front of both student sections and police were stationed in front of them as the dramatic final seconds ticked off the clock. When Jack Schager drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Glenbard North a 44-43 victory over York, nary a fan left their seat. One police officer was standing on the court as players celebrated.

“We talk to the leaders of the student sections: 'If you go, everyone else is going to go,'” said Addison Trail athletic director Humberto Ayala. “We also have conversations with the other ADs. They will focus on their student sections.

“I feel like everybody's done everything possible to include these groups that want to be part of this high school experience. But we've got to make sure it's safe for everyone, especially the kids that aren't paying attention to kids running on the court.”

Once York's players finished shaking hands and left the court, officials allowed fans to join Glenbard North's players for the ceremonial cutting down of the nets.

Ayala and others believe much of the spontaneity of rushing the court has been lost. Case in point: Wake Forest improved to 18-9 after beating No. 8-ranked Duke 83-79 on Feb. 24. Did that victory really warrant a mass exodus from the stands?

“To them it's more of being on the court instead of actually cheering on their team,” Ayala said. “It always seems like there's something more to it. 'I want to record it, I want to say I was in this.'”

Duke coach John Scheyer, the 2006 Illinois Mr. Basketball winner while playing at Glenbrook North, wants the Atlantic Coast Conference to take measures to stop this practice. While some conferences have fines (which haven't seemed to help), Alabama AD Greg Byrne believes a team should forfeit the game if fans rush the court.

York AD Rob Wagner, a former defensive lineman for Northern Illinois, clearly remembers fans tearing down a goal post after the Huskies' 73-18 win over No. 25-ranked Fresno State in 1990.

“Oh, yeah,” Wagner said. “Then deposited it into the lagoon.”

That was the day Stacey Robinson broke the collegiate QB record with 308 rushing yards — and he did it in barely more than a half.

So when it comes to court or field storming, Wagner sees both sides.

“As an administrator, I worry about all the things that can go wrong,” Wagner said. “Like injuries, the other team getting upset and a melee breaking out. There's a reason why fans are supposed to stay in the stands and players stay on the court and we protect that.

“As a sports fan, I get it. Sometimes emotions overrule. Sometimes there's schools that have never been to state or won a big game, so you get that excitement. If everything's happy and joyful and peaceful, I'm OK with it.

“But I just worry about someone getting hurt or something else happening that you're liable for.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.