I reached out to Sporting News writer Mike DeCourcy today. DeCourcy has been critical of court rushing in the past and he wrote about it on Friday following the New Mexico State/Utah Valley brawl Thursday.
"It used to be common if a player hit a home run in the World Series, fans would run on the field but now that doesn't happen because there is security and players stay on the field and fans stay in the stands where they belong," DeCourcy said. "People say that sports journalists can't be fans but I'm a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Liverpool, etc. I pay money to see them play and when my team wins, I'm thrilled to see them celebrating from the stands. That's what I paid for and I belong in the seat that I paid for."
I interviewed DeCourcy for my story about the Aggies getting national attention for the incident. He said that the decision whether or not to ban students/fans from the court is up to the conference or the institution. The NCAA will not get involved.
"It's not something that the NCAA would do, other than for their own events, where it's hard for media members to even get on the court. It would be an institutional decision," he said.
WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd said that the league will discuss the issue in May, but didn't say anything would change in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena, which kind of caught me off guard, considering there is a real possibility the teams could meet in the WAC title game.
Hurd said the issue would be discussed in the days leading up to the tournament with WAC administrators.
"It's too early, but there is a difference between celebrating a win with your team as opposed to the incident when celebrating fans were coming on to the court with opposing players," Hurd said. "We will discuss it in our tournament preview next week."
While NMSU AD McKinley Boston questioned the security measures at Utah Valley, Hurd wouldn't go that far.
"I don't think that's fair to criticize Utah Valley at all," Hurd said. "It just escalated quicker. Utah Valley followed its protocol and I accept that."
Hurd said the difference between K.C. Ross-Miller's two game suspension from the league office and Renaldo Dixon's one game suspension was that the league felt Ross-Miller started the fight when he threw the basketball at Holton Hunsaker, even though Dixon was seen punching a Utah Valley fan.
"The difference in my mind is that Ross-Miller instigated the incident," Hurd said. "The other incident that happened was a result."
What happened shouldn't be a surprise. Athletes in a foreign gym outnumbered by opposing fans frustrated after an overtime loss, perhaps being boxed in in close quarters isn't a good idea. All it can take to set something off could be a student bumping into a player and the player feeling threatened and responded, which was the scenario that the UVU Student paper editor described to me late last night.
"We want players to care, that's what makes it a sport," DeCourcy said. "There is a chance that that passion can lead to something bad, but fans should not be directly adjacent to players."