Weighing Yurachek’s Bold Take on Fans Rushing in Light of the Kyle Filipowski Collision

Kyle Filipowski
Craven Whitlow

“Ladies and gentlemen, please stay off the playing floor.”

That was and still happens to be public address announcer John George’s plea over the loudspeaker in Bud Walton Arena after monumental Arkansas basketball victories.

Remember when the Razorbacks knocked off No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas as an unranked team in one week in 2008-09? No one rushed the court after either game. Then even after Michael Qualls’ epic dunk at the end of the January 2014 overtime thriller against Kentucky? No rushing the court followed that one, either.

Kyle Filipowski and the Court Storming

To this writer’s knowledge, the Bud Walton floor has only been stormed three times, twice against No. 2 and No. 1 Auburn in both 1999 and 2022 respectively and then earlier this season versus Duke.

Duke, of course, is on the receiving end of these events a lot. On Saturday in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Wake Forest knocked off the No. 8 Blue Devils for the first time in nearly ten years and kept its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, as the Demon Deacons haven’t danced since 2017.

The fans rushed the court following the four-point win and numerous Wake fans ran into and got physical with Duke star Kyle Filipowski, appearing to injure him in the process. It brought back flashbacks to late November, when Arkansas knocked off the then No. 7 Blue Devils by five in front of nearly 20,000 Hog fans.

The following court rushing, however. was safe enough. Just as the field rushing had been in 2021 in the Arkansas football team’s cathartic win over a ranked Texas squad. Thousands of students rushed the fields and those images created a boon for the University of Arkansas in the publicity department.

Still, the practice’s time could be coming to an end if more things like what happen this weekend ensue.

Duke Basketball Coach Has a Plea

Following Saturday’s game, Duke basketball coach Jon Scheyer had strong words for the pandemonium his team endured post game in his press conference.

“When are we going to ban court-storming?” Scheyer said. “Like, when are we going to ban that? How many times does a player have to get into something where they get punched or they get pushed or they get taunted right in their face? It’s a dangerous thing.”

Scheyer should put the safety of his players first, sure, but he’s also coming at this from the perspective of a program unlike most others. His team must put up with more court stormings than the average college basketball program because of the established brand that Duke is.

Coach K built them into such a national attraction during his 40-plus year reign as the Blue Devils’ leader that beating them is a badge of honor for most collegiate teams. It doesn’t even matter if Duke is ranked or not.

And they are ranked highly, of course, so there’s even more reason to rush the court. It’s the same with Alabama in football, at least under Nick Saban.

One way to look at it is, if it’s something that the students or fans want to be able to do when their team either beats a highly ranked opponent, or beats their rival, or wins a game at the buzzer that clinches a championship, then there needs to be certain ground rules for rushing the playing area.

How hard would it be for arena staff to have the public address announcer say that court storming will be allowed, but not until both teams’ players, coaches and support staffs are off the court and in their dressing rooms.

Most schools have ushers and security personnel already on site anyway, so it shouldn’t be that difficult to rope off the entrances to the court and make sure that no one makes a premature foray onto the hardwood, like what happened in late January when Iowa State beat No. 7 Kansas for the first time in eight years.

A group of clearly defined security personnel adorned with bright orange attire formed a human wall to help funnel the fans spilling onto the court away from the postgame handshake line.

If Iowa State can do this at Hilton Coliseum, surely the same outcome can be achieved in Bud Walton Arena.

Hunter Yurachek’s Strong Beliefs

Figuring out a tactic like this would be a lot better than trying to prevent fans getting to storm the field or court at all As Yurachek sees it, such attempts to totally restrain students are often futile anyway. “I was at the University of Houston when we tried to stop students from getting on our field when we won the American Athletic Conference championship and it turned into a disaster,” Yurachek said in 2021. “We had law enforcement that students started to fight. We had ushers from Landmark (a staffing company) who students started to fight. It’s not a great scene.”

Yurachek added that the fine for the Texas field rushing was “worth it” and it appears he believes the same has gone for the fan rushings vs Auburn and Duke.

Court storming is almost one of those deals where you don’t want to punish everyone for the misdeeds of a few. There’s millions of college basketball fans out there. They didn’t all bump into Iowa women’s star Caitlin Clark after a game like what happened in Ohio back in January. 

Nor did they beeline for Kyle Filipowski and attempt to shove or trip him as he was attempting to exit the floor.

The players obviously shouldn’t have to risk injury after competing for 40 minutes or longer at a high level. Seth Davis of CBS Sports said on his network at the end of the Duke-Wake Forest game, that the fans in the arena hadn’t “earned the right to be out there.”

And he’s not wrong, in a sense that they didn’t put their blood, sweat and tears into competing on the floor or earning a scholarship.

On the other hand, who made him judge and jury? Not only the fact that Davis is a Duke alum, but fans pay hefty prices for tickets, parking, concessions and might have planned their entire weekend for this one game.

If it so happens that their favorite team that they’ve been a fan of for 40 years upsets a top 10 team when they weren’t favored to do so, they shouldn’t be allowed to storm the court and create a memory that will be etched in their hearts forever?

Arkansas’ Place In All This Mess

In all three court stormings that have happened in Fayetteville, there have been no incidents. Sure, fines were paid, and for a while last spring a penalty stiffer than just hurting the pocket book was discussed.

When Auburn came in here in 2022 and left with a four-point defeat in overtime, everyone remembered the resulting brouhaha and Devo Davis’ dunk and subsequent hanging on the rim over Wendell Green as the lights went out briefly.

People likely didn’t know or had already forgotten about what Auburn had been doing pregame to the logo, however.

If players are allowed to act ignorant before the game with no punishment or fines, why can’t students and fans?

Currently, the power six conferences all deal with this differently. The ACC doesn’t have a penalty for schools storming the floor, while the Big Ten doesn’t fine schools until a third offense. 

Meanwhile, the Big East, Big 12 and SEC are fine assessors. The SEC fines offenders $100,000 the first time. From there, Second offenses cost $250,000, while a third offense would require $500,000.

With Clark and Filipowski both having gotten into separate incidents so far in 2024, it almost seems inevitable that some sort of resolution is going to be handed down sooner rather than later regarding the future of court stormings.

Especially with spots in March Madness on the line and millions more eyeballs fixing to be focusing on college basketball.

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