The purist within is sad to think one of the scenes that makes college basketball special will go the way of the four-corners offense and illegal dunks.

Yet the realist understands the latest crowd un-pleasing decision by the Pac-12 Conference only was a matter of time.

This past week the Pac-12 CEO group, consisting of league chancellors and presidents, announced a pair of significant changes for the 2016-17 school year.

The first — a recommendation to modify the league's national football agreements with Fox and ESPN that would greatly reduce the number of late-night kickoffs for games aired on the Pac-12 Networks — was met with particular joy from all Buffs fans east of the Pacific Time Zone. With a few exceptions, the late Saturday kickoffs that end sometime early Sunday morning will be a thing of the past.

The second, however, received little enthusiasm from Pac-12 basketball fans in all locales except perhaps Tucson, as storming the athletic fields or courts after big wins now will be met with fines for the host institution.

This matter has grown into a hot-button issue, particularly in men's college basketball. While storming the field certainly exists in football, the more spacious environs and significant distance between the fans and teams generally makes the phenomenon safer for both the stormers and stormees. That's not the case in basketball arenas, where a surge of giddy fans can swarm upon young men who have just suffered an emotional loss, not to mention innocent spectators, within moments after the final buzzer.


This past season Arizona coach Sean Miller was vocal on the subject, and not for the first time, following the incident-free emptying of the CU student section immediately after the Buffs' victory against the ninth-ranked Wildcats.

While Miller's rhetoric tends to lean toward blustery, there can be no argument the man had a point when he said the only team in the Pac-12 that court-storming adversely affects is his Wildcats. Even with four NCAA Tournament appearances in five seasons, no student section is rushing the floor after their team tops the Buffs.

The winds of change on this issue have been blowing longer than Miller's pleas. The SEC implemented a ban on field and court-rushing in 2004.

During the 2014-15 season New Mexico State players got into a physical altercation with onrushing Utah Valley fans. After an upset win at home this past season, court-storming Kansas State fans were seen taunting Kansas players. And while the great unwashed of the media are seated safely on the other side of the Coors Events Center from the CU student section, such a buffer zone wasn't in place last season for a Des Moines Register columnist who suffered a compound leg fracture when caught in a rushing crowd following Iowa State's last-minute comeback against state rival Iowa.

These are just a few examples of situations fraught with potential danger and, more significantly, liability. It's a matter of when, not if, a university will be hit with a viable and expensive lawsuit from the injured victim of a court-storming incident. The Pac-12 took a solid first step in implementing a system where the first offense will result in a $25,000 fine, followed by fines of $50,000 and $100,000 for subsequent incidents.

In a conversation with my colleague Brian Howell after the announcement, athletic director Rick George said there is no specific plan in place as yet for curtailing such events at CU, other than to make in-game announcements while keeping the general public informed. And that's exactly why it's time for the NCAA to step in with specific rules and guidelines.

League-to-league policies don't help those schools when facing a hostile non-conference foe on the road, and fines to an institution hardly are deterrents to any college student caught up in the exuberance of a big moment. Give those same students the threat of individual legal ramifications, however, and the tune changes.

CU coach Tad Boyle hasn't wavered in his belief that court-storming is a significant and memorable idiosyncrasy of the college game. I agree. Unfortunately, its time has passed.

I liken it to the safety nets now required at the ends of NHL and collegiate hockey rinks. When they were implemented 15 years ago there was a faction of purists who believed it would take away from their great game, yet now the thought of not having those safety measures seems ludicrous.

It took the tragic death of a 13-year old fan for the NHL to concede such measures as necessary. The NCAA needs to step in and set definitive regulations before some school somewhere is forced to deal with a similar tragedy.

Pat Rooney: or