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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, March 14, 2000

No excuse for chaos on
Fresno’s home court

IT'S scary when the inmates run the basketball asylum. Fresno's Selland Arena is known for having some of the loudest and most enthusiastic fans in the NCAA.

I have the earache to prove it.

University of Hawaii men's basketball coach Riley Wallace has said repeatedly how impressed he is with the support the Bulldogs receive.

But there is no control valve for chaos and that's what reigned at Selland Arena after Hawaii's heart-stopping 103-100 double-overtime loss to Fresno State in the WAC tournament semifinals.

It was the same Saturday night after the Bulldogs had beaten Tulsa for the WAC title in another thriller.

Fans poured out of their seats, jumped over the $500 courtside table seats, and ran through porous security to reach their beloved 'Dogs. People fell, people were stepped on.

Luckily, there were no serious injuries.

I heard the PA announcer weakly urging fans to get off the court for the awards ceremony, but he might as well have been talking to himself.

"We appreciate your enthusiasm. Please don't attack the players,'' he said.

AFTER the Hawaii game on Friday, the statistician's computer was nearly knocked over by a fan, and a cordon of arena security and plain-clothes police struggled to get Wallace and his players safely off the court.

They succeeded.

WAC commissioner Karl Benson said that meant his vow to provide adequate security for the Rainbows after an ugly March 4 incident had been fulfilled.

That was the incident in which two Hawaii players and one assistant coach were struck by fans en route to the locker room, and yet another Rainbow player was drawn into a fistfight.

Marquette Alexander, a true gentleman on and off the court during the 1999-2000 season, should be able to concentrate on his schoolwork now, think about a pro career, his family and his fondest memories as a Rainbow.

Instead he's worrying about a misdemeanor battery charge and a lawsuit filed by a fan who fought with him.

THAT'S why I was really stunned when Benson, who made it clear before the WAC tournament that security would be his responsibility, actually sounded glib about fans charging the floor at the end of Hawaii's season-ending game at Selland Arena.

"All you have to do is turn on the TV and see postgame celebrations," said Benson. "My opinion is you don't want to deter that type of enthusiasm."

Benson added pointedly, "How do you stop it?"

Well, at Aloha Stadium and the Stan Sheriff Center, they've discovered there's nothing like a blue uniformed officer with a holster on his belt. Fans are not as likely to bowl over someone they KNOW is a cop.

There is no visible presence of blue uniforms at Selland Arena. Only plain-clothes security and ushers holding thin ropes.

It's too bad the standoff between Alexander, the only Hawaii player amid a mob of Bulldogs supporters, and the fan, Glenn Douglas, had a chance to escalate.

It would not have gone that far if there really was crowd control at Selland Arena.

On the three occasions I attended games there between March 4 and March 11, I didn't see it.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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