tampabay.com

FSU appreciates support, but wants fans to stay in stands

As a raucous victory over Duke shows, safety concerns remain.

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published March 3, 2006


TALLAHASSEE - Florida State officials will be discussing security at home men's basketball games after a bizarre ending to Wednesday night's win against top-ranked Duke.

Hundreds of Seminole students and fans, who had zealously and vociferously supported their team and, in the words of athletic director Dave Hart, "created an atmosphere worthy of ACC basketball at its very best," poured onto the court with 1.7 seconds left.

The referees eventually cleared them off and assessed a two-shot technical on FSU. Duke made the free throws, then coach Mike Krzyzewski, worried about his players' safety, sent his starters to the locker room before FSU's Al Thornton took two free throws. Moments later, the fans were back on the court en masse.

"It's an unfortunate situation and let the powers that be handle it the way they want to handle it, in front of everybody, though, not behind closed doors," Krzyzewski said.

ACC commissioner John Swofford praised the referees for "properly and effectively" handling the chaos. More important, he stressed that all the league schools appreciate the need for a safe environment and it is "discussed on an ongoing basis."

Hart said in a statement that FSU had more security than normal at the Donald L. Tucker Center and officials met the morning of the game to "review alternatives one final time." The last two wins at home against Duke, in 2002 and 2003, ended with similar scenes.

"The safety of the visiting coaches and team, as well as the game officials and fans is of the utmost concern,' Hart said.

"Whatever the issues are," said FSU coach Leonard Hamilton, "they'll be addressed in the appropriate way."

Rushing the floor is difficult to curtail. Texas A&M fans did it on Wednesday after upsetting Texas in a game that was as critical to their team's NCAA Tournament hopes as the win against Duke was to FSU's.

The SEC instituted a sportsmanship policy in late 2004 where the home team will be fined if its fans take to the court (or football field). The first incident costs $5,000, then $25,000 and $50,000. That hasn't stopped the fans.

After Tennessee and Arkansas beat Florida in basketball this season, their fans stormed the floor.

"On TV, it looks great ... but it's really a scary environment on the floor," said Gators coach Billy Donovan, adding that $5,000 for the first time isn't strict enough. "The other thing it does is it takes away from what a great win Florida State had. They shouldn't (have to) be addressing their lack of security or whatever. ... They should be talking about how great their kids played and what a great win it was for their program."