Florida college basketball courtside ejections bring fan behavior into focus

Kevin Brockway
The Gainesville Sun

Florida basketball ejected three fans sitting in courtside seats on Wednesday night in its game against Kentucky after they grabbed Kentucky guard Cason Wallace.

As Wallace raced to the sideline for a loose ball, video replays showed one of the fans grabbing Wallace by the waist and another with his arm across Wallace's neck, impeding his ability to get back onto the court,

After Florida guard Niels Lane raced for a transition layup on the play, Kentucky coaches who spotted the incident, which occurred across from their bench, called for a video review. After the review, the fans were immediately tossed.

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Courtside seats first became popular in the NBA in the 1980s going back to the Los Angeles Lakers dynasty, in which movie stars such as Jack Nicholson paid for the high price to be close to the action. They have filtered down to the college ranks as schools are seeking more revenue streams. Florida expanded its courtside seating in 2016 following the O'Connell Center's renovation, which reduced the overall capacity of the arena from 12,000 to 10,150.

Florida has long had a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to fans straying onto areas of competition. In 2005, former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley strongly pushed an eventual SEC rule that fines schools for fans storming courts or fields in postgame celebrations.

Gator fans didn't storm the court when they upset No. 2 Tennessee at the O'Dome earlier this month, as Florida had law enforcement officers lined up in front of the student section.

Gator fans showed their support in the first half. The University of Florida menÕs basketball team hosted the University of Connecticut at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. OÕConnell Center in Gainesville, FL on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. The University of Connecticut defeated the Florida Gators 75-54. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Several SEC schools have been fined since, including Tennessee, which paid $100,000 after its fans stormed the field at Neyland Stadium and took down the goalposts following its 52-29 upset of Alabama.

Here are some other examples of fans being ejected from courtside seats in recent years:

LeBron James gets two fans tossed

LeBron James got two courtside fans ejected for using "obscene gestures and words" toward him during a Los Angeles Lakers-Indiana Pacers game at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Nov. 26, 2021.

Phoenix Suns coach gets male fan ejected

Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams had a male fan ejected for using vulgar language toward him during a game between the Suns and Washington Wizards in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 28, 2022.

Former college star leaves courtside seat for student section

In a unique twist, Charlotte Hornets guard and former UConn star James Bouknight was ejected by officials from his courtside seat for standing on the court and talking on his cell phone during UConn's game against Xavier on Feb, 19, 2022. Instead of leaving the arena entirely, Bouknight found a seat in the student section at Gampel Pavilion, where he was met with a rousing ovation.