Write the check: Games worth rushing the field for
Every year, in both football and basketball, there’s an upset, big or small, that incites total hysteria amongst fans. When the final buzzer sounds, they stream onto the court or field and revel in the victory.
Those incidents tend to create headaches for team officials and conference brass, which is one reason the SEC is upping its penalties for fans going onto the playing surface when the clock hits zeroes. The new fine for a first offense is $50,000, which was the fine for third offenses under the old model. From there, it rises to $100,000 and then to $250,000, a nice chunk of change.
There’s also the debate among media types about whether a team’s fans have the right to rush the field and whether a program is too prominent to engage in such underdog behavior.
Bama staffer told me once: "Our fans wouldn't rush field even if we beat Dallas Cowboys" RT @SloppyMonkey: Tide has never rushed the field
— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 29, 2015
Now, we’re not advocating rushing the field by any means. There are inherent dangers for both fans and teams when thousands of fans pile onto the field at once.
But just last year, three schools rushed the field: Ole Miss after beating Alabama, Kentucky after beating South Carolina and LSU after topping Ole Miss.
It’s likely going to happen again this year, too, despite the deterrents in place. When it does, these schools should just sigh and let their fans enjoy the moment.
Kentucky vs. Florida, Week 3 — The Wildcats haven’t beaten Florida on the gridiron since 1986. In other words, no one playing for either team was born the last time UK topped UF in football. That’s a lot of pent-up frustration, especially considering that these two schools are bitter rivals in basketball as well. If Kentucky knocks off the Gators this year — even in a down year for Florida — Commonwealth Stadium is going to explode like a shaken-up bottle of champagne. The problem, of course, is that another field rushing incident would count as a third offense for UK after the school was hit with a $25,000 fine last year for rushing the field after knocking off South Carolina. After 27 straight losses, it would be worth it for UK to take a little slice out of its fat SEC payout to let the fans celebrate in style.
Texas A&M vs. Auburn, Week 10 — Texas A&M has had a decent amount of success since joining the SEC, spending time as a top-10 team all three seasons they’ve been in the conference. There is a catch, though: A&M has yet to win a home game against a ranked team in SEC play, with an 0-5 mark in such games. The Aggies’ biggest wins have come on the road: at Alabama in 2012 and at Auburn last year. If the Aggies knock off Auburn at home this year — the Tigers should be sitting near the top of the rankings — the 12th man will unleash a celebration four years in the making. It’s a win that could validate A&M’s return to the SEC elite as an added bonus.
Tennessee vs. Vanderbilt, Week 13 — Beating Vanderbilt, especially at home, was not a big accomplishment in 2014, and it won’t be in 2015. However, there could be much greater implications for this game. If the Volunteers meet their growing expectations, this game could be their SEC East clincher, giving UT its first division title since 2007. While there are teams that haven’t yet won the East, that’s quite a drought for one of the most prominent programs in school history. It would be well worth the fine to let the fans and players celebrate their return to prominence on the field together.