How NCAA Division I conferences contend with court storming

Big 12 commissioner: Zero-tolerance policy on court storming will be discussed (4:15)

Big 12 commissioner Brett Yormark talks to Jeremy Schaap about recent court-storming incidents in college basketball. (4:15)

More than half of the NCAA's 32 Division I conferences say that they either have no policy on court storming or that their crowd-control approach covers storming without specifically mentioning it, according to an analysis by ESPN.

Eleven conferences -- the Atlantic 10, Big East, Big South, Big Ten, Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Pac-12, WAC, Southeastern and West Coast -- recently told ESPN that the home school for a court storm could be subject to a fine under certain circumstances. Some have precise penalties, while others have general language regarding disciplinary measures and their applicability.

The ACC, which saw fans from one of its schools -- Wake Forest -- storm their home court after defeating Duke on Saturday, does not have a fine structure or disciplinary measures for when fans rush the court, according to information provided to ESPN. Each school manages its own events. The conference does have some requirements for keeping officials and visiting teams safe and helping them off the floor.

"Across college athletics, we have seen far too many of these incidents that put individuals at serious risk, and it will require the cooperation of all -- including spectators -- to ensure everyone's well-being," ACC commissioner Jim Phillips said in a statement after the incident at Wake Forest. "As a conference, we will continually assess with our schools the best way to protect our student-athletes, coaches, and fans."

Many conferences have guidelines that emphasize the need for visiting teams and game officials to have a safe way to exit before crowds reach the floor, and numerous conferences require schools' action plans in writing.

According to an ESPN review, although official statistics aren't available, there have been about three court storms a week over the past three months in college basketball. On Feb. 21, during a three-hour span, there were episodes in Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Questions about conference policies and procedures nationwide arose last month after Iowa women's basketball star Caitlin Clark collided on the court with an unidentified woman during a court storm at Ohio State on Jan. 21.

Debate over storms surfaced again Saturday after what happened at Wake Forest. Seconds after the Demon Deacons' 83-79 win, fans streamed onto the court and an unidentified fan ran into Duke's 7-foot center Kyle Filipowski, who appeared to suffer a hit to his right leg and then hobbled off the court with the help of teammates. The scene prompted Duke coach Jon Scheyer to call for a ban on court storming. In comments after the game, Wake Forest coach Steve Forbes agreed.

Other recent incidents have contributed to questions about whether storming the court should be banned, and if so, how? The same day as the Clark collision, a fan in New Orleans put his hand on the back of Memphis player David Jones as Tulane fans stormed the court. Jones wasn't injured. Tulane apologized and condemned the incident.

In the final second of Kansas State's 75-70 home overtime win against Kansas on Feb. 5, as fans were seen preparing to run onto the court, men's coach Jerome Tang and his staff motioned to them during a timeout, imploring them to remain in the stands and not storm the court -- fans had stormed last season after a home win against KU. In postgame comments after this season's win against the Jayhawks, Tang said he wants to build a program that expects to win.

"I never see them storm the court at Allen Fieldhouse," Tang said. "I never see them storm the court at Duke and North Carolina, and I don't believe there's any reason why, given time, and the opportunity, that we can't build that kind of a program here at Manhattan, Kansas."

NCAA president Charlie Baker told ESPN in a Feb. 20 interview -- before Filipowski got injured -- that he understands why people want to storm courts, "but I think the risks, especially given the stakes involved for a lot of these young people, are pretty high.

"If we could move away from this, I think it's a decision that's got to be made at the conference level."

So what are conferences doing? Of the 32 D-I conferences ESPN contacted after Clark's collision, all 32 replied with information on their court-storming policies and approaches, and 11 said the home school for a court storm could be subject to a fine under certain circumstances. Here's a breakdown of those 11 conferences' financial penalty policies:

SEC: The conference imposes fines "for any field or court rush that occurs when the visiting team and/or game officials are still on the playing surface." Additionally: "In all sports, institutions shall limit access to the competition area to participating student-athletes, coaches, officials, support personnel, and properly credentialed or authorized individuals at all times."

The conference has a 20-year history of assessing fines. In 2004, the structure was $5,000 for a first offense; $25,000 for a second and $50,000 for a third. The league increased the amounts in 2015 to $50,000, $100,000 and $250,000, respectively. Another update in 2023 boosted the fines to $100,000, $250,000 and $500,000 for a third and each subsequent offense. The commissioner can impose additional penalties. For conference games, the money goes to the visiting school.

The SEC has imposed nearly $3.9 million in fines on its schools over the past 20 years for fans storming basketball courts or football fields, according to figures provided to ESPN. Fines totaled nearly $1.3 million in penalties as a result of "access to competition area" violations in men's basketball. Vanderbilt ($630,000) and Arkansas ($355,000) rank atop the league for fines from men's basketball court storms. The conference imposed $2.6 million in football fines -- LSU ($605,000) and Auburn ($505,000) received the most for football field incidents. No fines have been levied because of women's basketball court storms.

"While fines don't impact the immediate decision-making process of fans, they do provide an incentive from universities to develop strategies," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a report by The Athletic last June about the SEC's announcement of its newly increased fines. Sankey said part of such thinking concerns "allowing people to celebrate, but not do so necessarily on the field or court."

The SEC's structure of penalties, all in six figures, is exponentially higher than any other conference's. But critics say the effectiveness of such punishments in sending a forceful message and serving as a deterrent is questionable at best.

"I appreciate the fining, but don't think it's well thought out," said two-time player of the year Nancy Lieberman, an adamant opponent of storming. A two-time AIAW national champion, Lieberman said she felt uncomfortable during court storms when she was at Old Dominion (1976-80) and that the situation in the game is much worse now. "I'd make the first offense $500,000; why wait for the third? Put your foot down so it won't happen again, there should be no redo or mulligan."

Said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, a former Duke player: "When a school gets fined by the conference for a court storming after a big win that they enjoy, they round up the money from their boosters to pay and they basically say, 'We'll be glad to pay it.' It doesn't make any sense, and it sends a contradictory message."

While Bilas opposes court storming, his fellow "College GameDay" analyst Seth Greenberg supports it, as long as proper safety protocols are in place. But the former D-I coach, who experienced storms firsthand, shares in the skepticism over fines imposed by the SEC and other conferences.

"Let's face it, most of those schools, when you have that moment, you're willing to pay the fine," Greenberg said. "Because that's a great marketing tool for your university in terms of showing really the synergy between the student body, athletic department and the institution."

Big Ten: A discretionary fine can result on a third offense for failure to "provide adequate security for visiting teams from their arrival for a game through their departure." There is a private reprimand for a first offense; a public reprimand for second.

Nebraska, which has had three storms in Big Ten home games since the start of 2024, including after the women defeated Clark and No. 2 Iowa on Feb. 11, declined ESPN's requests to interview athletic director Trev Alberts and other administrators, but provided a statement from Alberts, saying in part: "The issue is not the home team and its fans, it is the safety of the visiting team. This is an area where we can do a better job as schools and as a conference and there must be clear protocol in place to make sure the opposing team gets off the court safely. It is important for schools to communicate that plan, and that the opposing team adheres to the plan that is in place."

A Nebraska spokesperson said the school modified its protocol after fans stormed the court following a men's win against No. 1 Purdue in January -- so a visiting team would have "a more direct and expedited path off the court." He added that the new approach was in effect when fans stormed the court after the Huskers men defeated Wisconsin in February.

The Big Ten did not announce a reprimand or penalty for Nebraska, so it is not known whether the conference deemed that any of the three Huskers storms violated policy or whether the conference issued a private reprimand. The Big Ten confirmed those possibilities and said there have been no situations this season that have risen to the level of a public reprimand, let alone a fine.

Big 12: Fines are implemented "when the safety of game participants is compromised," and all court/field storming incidents are reviewed to determine whether safe passage was provided for visiting team players/personnel and game officials to exit.

Like the Big Ten, the Big 12 did not provide information on the amounts of fines, but it did slap UCF with a $25,000 penalty for its Jan. 10 court storming after a men's basketball victory over No. 3 Kansas.

Pac-12: Fines are: $10,000 for a first penalty, $25,000 for a second, $50,000 for a third and $100,000 for a fourth. When court rushing occurs within 60 seconds of the end of a game, reprimands and/or fines may apply. Mitigating factors may include whether the visiting team, working personnel and game officials have safely exited.

Big East: Fines in effect since 2017 are $5,000 for a first offense and up to $25,000 for a second. No fine of greater than $5,000 has been levied to date. Before a storm at Creighton on Feb. 20, when the No. 15 Bluejays beat No. 1 UConn by 19 points, the most recent example was Feb. 10, 2023, at Butler, when the Bulldogs beat No. 13 Xavier.

West Coast Conference: Fines, which are new for 2023-24: $5,000 for a first offense, $25,000 for a second and up to $50,000 for a third or more in the same season. They are levied when storms occur before a visiting team, coaches and officials are escorted off. Funds are donated to a charity associated with the late Bill Russell. The first WCC fine was after a Jan. 11 storm when Santa Clara beat Gonzaga.

Atlantic 10: The league appears to prohibit storming without mentioning it: "At no time before, during or after a contest, shall spectators be permitted to enter the competition area." And "the Commissioner may, at her sole discretion, impose penalties (including financial fines) as she deems appropriate." There is no set range of penalties and no documented examples. There have been two recent A-10 storms -- after Dayton's losses Jan. 27 at Richmond and Feb. 21 at George Mason.

Conference USA: Penalties are at the commissioner's discretion. For first-time offenders, they include possibilities of reprimands and fines (no amounts provided). For repeat offenders inside of a five-year period, fines would increase.

Big South: The policy manual doesn't mention court storming, but if one is deemed to violate conduct and crowd-control guidelines, a school could face a $3,000 fine and public reprimand, and a repeat offense could mean a $5,000 fine and forfeiture of the game.

Western Athletic Conference: Each occurrence is handled on a case-by-case basis. The policy allows for potential monetary penalties, but the WAC said there is no set amount and there have been no fines levied to date.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference: There are no specific penalties on crowd control, but the MEAC commissioner and/or executive committee may find a member institution guilty of a violation of conference rules and/or regulations, or unethical conduct, and may impose an appropriate penalty, which could include financial penalties.

ESPN researcher John Mastroberardino contributed to this report.