Kenny Ocker (@kennyocker) is a national columnist.
I was a participant in one of the most dubious court-rushings of all time. Nothing says “We’re on top of the college basketball world!” quite like taking to the floor in celebration of not going winless in the conference season. In my defense, I was a freshman at the time. Two years – and seemingly a world – removed from an Elite Eight berth, Oregon had only bit players and overhyped freshmen on hand in 2008-09, and that motley crew led the Webfoots to a cool 14-game losing streak to start the Pac-10 season. All was not well in Eugene. On top of the terrible season, rumor had it that venerable McArthur Court was in its final year. (A series of missed timetables kept society from the Rorschach-blotted court of Matthew Knight Arena for another season and a half, however). But when Stanford rolled into town on February 21, Oregon’s defense showed up for the only time that season. Thirty-nine minutes and change later, a whiteboard was held up in the student section that read “We’re storming the court.” And that’s what we did.
After the 68-60 Ducks win, the Pit Crew leaped over the row of courtside chairs and headed to center court, pregame-giveaway Ping-Pong balls in tow, and mobbed the Fox Sports Net cameras. Nearly six years later, this remains one of my paramount memories of college basketball – the other involves some heckling of former Washington State forward Deangelo Casto, but you had to be there – and of college. I can recount my experience from that game better than I can recount pretty much anything I learned in a freshman year class – the only thing I had to look up was the date. Consequential game or not, this is the experience students have when they rush the court after a team’s big win (as they define it at the time). To curtail it would leave these exuberant celebrations, these spontaneous releases of positive energy, on the sidelines, with students feeling less like a part of the college basketball experience, to which they are vital. (Disagree? Look at how many times rushed courts end up on highlight reels; how many frames of crying students show up during the NCAA Tournament; how much value there is to playing at home.) Read the rest of this entry »