Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Storming floor nets Gamecocks fine
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's first victory over a No. 1 team will cost $25,000.
The Southeastern Conference fined South Carolina that amount Wednesday for violating league rules against permitting fans on the playing area following a 68-62 victory over top-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday night.
As the game neared the end, security at the Colonial Life Arena held up a yellow rope to keep the people off the court. However, South Carolina guard Devan Downey urged students to join the players in celebration as time ran out. The Gamecocks had been 0-7 in the program's history against No. 1 teams before the Wildcat win.
The scene was so crazy, Kentucky coach John Calipari headed straight for the locker room instead of walking to South Carolina's bench for the traditional postgame handshake.
This was considered South Carolina's second such violation, the first coming five years ago after another win over Kentucky.
"This policy is designed to create a safe environment for everyone who participates and attends our athletic contests," SEC commissioner Mike Slive said in a statement. "The security and protection of our student athletes, coaches, officials and fans is our primary concern."
The policy went into effect on Dec. 1, 2004, less than two weeks after a brawl involving players and fans during a game between the NBA's Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons at the Palace of Auburn Hills, and one day after another fight among players in a Clemson-South Carolina football game.
A violation within the next three years, according to SEC policy, would bring South Carolina a $50,000 fine.
South Carolina was last fined for storming the court in February 2005 after a 73-61 victory over then-No. 3 Kentucky. That penalty was $5,000.
South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman said after Tuesday's win he had messaged Slive to see if beating a No. 1 team earned him a discount on the expected fine. Hyman said he had fans coming up to him giving him $1 bills to help pay any fine.
Hyman did not return a message from The Associated Press on Wednesday. However, in a statement, he praised the fans for their enthusiasm, calling the atmosphere at the arena "as exciting as any time since I've been here."
"However, the SEC schools voted unanimously on the sportsmanship policy and subsequent fines for violating that policy, and we support it fully," he said.
Hyman continued that while he was pleased with the game's outcome, "I was also very concerned that we follow this policy to prevent a dangerous situation from occurring."
Danger seemed like the furthest thing from any South Carolina player or supporter's mind once time ran out.
Downey pointed to the crowd, yelling "I told you so" after the win. When asked about a potential SEC fine Tuesday night, he smiled and said, "I'm pretty sure the university's got some money somewhere to pay the fine."
On Wednesday, Downey acknowledged telling fans to join the players' celebration.
"I'm not saying it's right, wrong or whatever, but when you beat a No. 1 team in the country, you want to remember that moment in a special way," he said. "Yeah, I told them to come on the court."
Athletic spokesman Steve Fink said the department intended to pay.