K-State Athletics issues apology for Monday’s court storming

K-State students flood the court following the Wildcats' second victory in as many years over #8-ranked archrival Kansas in Bramlage Coliseum February 23, 2015. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

K-State Athletics Director John Currie issued a statement Tuesday morning following controversy stemming from K-State students and fans storming the court after the men’s basketball team’s 70-63 win over No. 8 Kansas Monday night.

“On behalf of President (Kirk) Schulz and K-State Athletics, I apologize to Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger, Coach Bill Self and the Kansas basketball team for the unfortunate situation in which they were placed last night at the conclusion of our basketball game,” Currie said.

As the final seconds ticked away during the 281st Sunflower Showdown, K-State students and fans began rushing the court. In a matter of seconds, the celebration was carried over near the scorer’s table where K-State head coach Bruce Weber and Kansas head coach Bill Self shook hands.

Self appeared to be inadvertently shoved up against the padding of the table by the influx of fans. In response, Weber shielded Self from the crowd and began to shove fans away himself.

“Finally, I said: ‘To heck with it,’ and started pushing people out of the way, which is sad,” Weber said after the game. “You want to enjoy it, but also be respectful of your opponent and make sure they get off the court safely.”

In the statement Tuesday, Currie confirmed that the university is also reviewing video of a fan who elbowed Kansas forward Jamari Traylor as he walked toward the tunnel.

K-State Athletics was working with K-State Police, and requested help in identifying the fan.

“We will take appropriate action with such identified persons, including turning over all evidence to law enforcement so that any applicable charges can be filed,” Currie said.

ESPN cameras also caught Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend grabbing a K-State fan from behind who was gesturing toward a group of Jayhawk players near the end of the Kansas bench.

The Kansas athletic department has not issued a statement on the individual incident at the time of writing.

Currie said that security personnel were unable to form a barrier between fans and players — a procedure that was successfully executed last season when K-State defeated Kansas — due to being “overwhelmed by the fans rushing the floor.”

“Although no one was hurt last night, we fell short of our expectations for securing the court and escorting KU to its locker room without incident,” Currie said. “We are disappointed that we did not do better for the KU team.”

Monday’s incident, which went viral on social media minutes after it occurred, has sprung national discussion on the safety of court-storming, particularly in college basketball.

“I wasn’t nervous for me,” Self said after the game. “There were several students that hit our players. I’m not saying like with a fist, but when you storm the court, you run in, you bump everybody, stuff like that. This has got to stop. I think court-storming is fine, but certainly you can get security to the point where players’ safety is not involved like it is here the last several times.”

Self proposed that, at the very least, celebration should be restricted to the center of the court away from the scorer’s table where teams shake hands before exiting the court.

“You’re asking for big problems,” Self said. “Because somebody’s going to hit a player, and the player’s going to retaliate, and you’re going to have lawsuits and cases, and it’s just not right. There’s just no place to be unsafe. If you do it, at least do it around center-court; don’t do it at the other bench.”

Tuesday, Currie met with Student Governing Association President Reagan Kays and Vice President for Student Life Pat Bosco to discuss steps to improve sportsmanship. This included an explicit chant that was heard at Bramlage Coliseum and on TV throughout the course of the game.

“We are saddened by the insistence of some fans to sully the image of our great institution with audible profane chants,” Currie said. “We will continue to work with our student leadership to provide a better example of sportsmanship for our audiences.”