Crowd control is a concern


Published: Friday, February 18, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 18, 2005 at 1:10 a.m.
It didn't take long for a school to test the Southeastern Conference's new crowd-control policy.
South Carolina fans stormed the court following its Tuesday-night upset of No. 3 Kentucky at the Colonial Center in Columbia, S.C.
The win was the first for South Carolina at home against Kentucky since 1997 and came against the highest-ranked opponent in the history of the three-year-old building.
Under the policy, the SEC can fine South Carolina up to $5,000 if it deems that the school didn't do enough to prevent fans from reaching the court. SEC spokesman DeWayne Peevy said that commissioner Mike Slive is reviewing South Carolina's game-management procedures, and expects to make a decision today.
Like it does before all other home games, South Carolina showed a taped announcement asking fans to show good sportsmanship. Numerous messages were made over the public address system in the final minutes asking fans to refrain from going onto the court.
Police and arena security officers attempted to surround the court, holding a yellow rope, but were unable to keep some students from pouring out the stands.
Slive could decide that no fine is warranted, if South Carolina proves it did everything within its means to keep fans off the court. If a fine is handed down, South Carolina's student government has already agreed to make a donation to the athletic department to cover its expense.
Kentucky coach Tubby Smith said his team was able to make it back to the locker room safely and without incident.
"I didn't think the kids at South Carolina did anything that bad," Smith said. "It was pretty well under control. Sometimes you see it where students are climbing over the scorer's table or coming into contact with players. It wasn't like that."
  • EAST-WEST CHALLENGE: The SEC will be holding its inaugural East-West Challenge this weekend. For the first time in 13 years, since the league split into two divisions, all the teams from the SEC East will be facing all the teams in the SEC West.
    The SEC East, bolstered by Florida's win over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt's win over Auburn on Wednesday night, holds a 13-11 head-to-head advantage against the SEC West this season.
    In the Saturday afternoon games, Florida will play at LSU and South Carolina will play at Alabama. Tennessee at Ole Miss follows at 5 p.m., part of a FSN/SUN doubleheader that wraps up with Arkansas at Vanderbilt at 7 p.m.
    The challenge wraps up with the nationally televised Mississippi State at Kentucky game at 9 p.m. on ESPN, a matchup between the defending league champion and the defending tournament champion. ESPN will broadcast its College Game Day on Saturday morning from Rupp Arena.
    Arkansas vs. Vanderbilt, featuring a pair of teams desperate to remain on the NCAA Tournament bubble, may prove the most intriguing matchup of the day. Vandy is 5-6 in conference play. Arkansas is 5-7.
    "We can't afford to lose anymore," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "We need to remain on a high. It's a big game for both teams and both of us want to finish strong."
    Said Arkansas coach Stan Heath: "We're on the outside looking in. We need some wins. We need a hot streak."
  • WISHFUL THINKING: In an unsolicited opinion, when asked about the development of freshmen in the league, Florida coach Billy Donovan suggested that six SEC teams were deserving of NCAA Tournament berths.
    The rationale? All those non-conference losses in December were the result of young teams and younger developing players who were trying to find their roles.
    "We don't have a chance to show ourselves now," Donovan said.
    In reality, the SEC will probably end up sending four times to the dance. Five would be stretching it.
    Florida may be one of the most improved teams from the start of the conference schedule, but Mississippi State, which suffered a blow when forward Winsome Frazier went down with a broken foot in early January, is struggling in the other direction. Arkansas dug itself a hole by getting off to a 2-6 start in the conference after going 13-1 in non-conference play.
    South Carolina faces another must-win scenario this Saturday against an Alabama. It won't be easy. The Tide are unbeaten at home in the SEC, winning their five games by an average margin of 21.4 points.
    "We have to approach this game the way we approached Kentucky," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "We have one gasp of air left."
    Kevin Brockway can be reached at (352) 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com
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