For anyone who took this story seriously please check the date. But it's too late for some (and some of this link is NSFW)
We were happy to sit in on Coach K's post-season press conference with the media last week and provide links to the stories by the beat writers the next day. Also observing at the press conference was Duke Athletic Director Kevin White, and beyond Coach K's reflections that were reported, what we especially found interesting was the casual conversation White had after the press conference with the N&O's Laura Keeley and the Herald-Sun's Steve Wiseman regarding the ACC's proposal to deter potentially dangerous "storm the court" situations - and, inevitably, lawsuits.
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As you are probably aware, the topic of how to prevent injuries to players, coaches, and students when there's a rush onto the court after a big victory or when an overzealous fan attacks, verbally or physically, a player (as was the case this year at the Texas Tech/Oklahoma State game) was discussed at last month's ACC Roundtable of athletic directors. After the discussion, the ACC stated that it plans to institute a physical barrier between fans and the players and coaches for the 2015-16 season and requested schools to evaluate the proposal and either accept it or propose a different solution by the end of the upcoming 2014-2015 season.
When Keeley and Wiseman asked White if Duke had given the ACC's plan any thought as yet, White stated (somewhat of a paraphrase here), "We haven't had the opportunity to gather the coaches and administrators together yet, but my personal view, and I think it's shared by many here, is that a barrier, and the most common idea is that it's a Plexiglas barrier much like you see in hockey, is problematic and probably overkill."
Asked why it was overkill, White remarked, "You have to remember, the last time Duke students rushed the court was over ten years ago, and why is that you might ask? And here I give our students enormous credit, it's because the student body has created a culture that storming the court is classless and they should act like, 'We've been here before.' That's impressive of them. All we do at the end of a game is have a simple yellow cord around the court, which is to support the students and remind any over-enthusiastic student or adult for that matter to let the players shake hands in a sportsmanlike manner and applaud and cheer our victory from the stands. It's an unbelievably healthy attitude and makes Cameron, with all of its craziness, a basketball shrine of intense passion yet utmost respect for the game. I don't mean to sound haughty, but I think other schools can learn from our example."
Pressed on why not just use a Plexiglas barrier to eliminate any danger, White commented, "As I said, a Plexiglas barricade like in hockey is problematic. First, what about a player banging hard into the Plexiglas? You'd have to put padding around it. Second, the beauty of college basketball is the closeness of the fans to the players, as long as there's a culture of no violence. Third, do you also protect the parents or do you exclude them by placing them behind the barrier? They receive as many taunts as their kids, so it's unfair to put them in with the rest of the fans, but if you put them in front, you create a barrier that has as many twists and turns as the old Berlin Wall. Fourth, items like water bottles or batteries can still be thrown over the barrier unless you take it up to the ceiling. Fifth, would it really stop the storming of the court or would it just create more injuries by students trying to climb over it? No, I think the best answer is by changing the culture and reinforcing the new culture, realize it truly is just a game, act like you've been there before, and show the class that your school, your classmates, your parents, and your alumni would expect."
As a final comment, White said, "I don't know if we can win on the issue, and again, this is my personal opinion, but I think it would be a tragedy if the barriers are put in place. I'll do my best to convince the other AD's if we as an institution take my position. Right now, yeah, it's an uphill battle as most ACC and probably most NCAA schools view it as a quick and easy fix, but it does nothing to honor the game and, in fact, I believe such a mandate would diminish it. All I can say is that I'm very proud to be at Duke."