As over-the-top fans grab more and more college basketball headlines, the question is raised: How much is too much?
Generally, four-letter words tend to dominate student sections. But some games are more than nasty language.
UCLA's Kevin Love received death threats on his cell phone. Indiana's Eric Gordon has been target of Illini fan hatred ever since switching his commitment from Illinois to Indiana. UAB nearly upset then-undefeated Memphis, then the fans nearly started a riot.
It wasn't as drastic, but Thursday night, a fan was tossed from the Arizona-USC game for throwing a water bottle at the USC bench. That prompted interim Wildcats coach Kevin O'Neill to admonish the fan and apologize to USC coach Tim Floyd.
So what's with everyone? SI.com's Grant Wahl wrote a fascinating story – complete with all the pertinent Love details – which covers the worry about players' personal safety and the tendency for fan chants and taunts to have a homophobic slant.
Is all of this new? No. Obscene chants have marred parts of the game for years. When I attended Kansas, Missouri fans found Ryan Robertson's phone number and would leave nasty messages before games. And I'm sure Kansas fans did the same to Missouri players.
Still, the recent taunts are disturbing and a little depressing for the sport in general.
Don't mistake that statement for wanting tame, boring crowds. I don't. But there is a difference between clever and caustic, energetic and obnoxious.
Schools are aware of the problem – Oregon's athletic director apologized to Love – and most have a code of conduct, but enforcing it is another matter. After all, these are college students, who are part of a highly partisan crowd eager to "help" their team win. (Though in some cases, some fans are just jerks, regardless of the score.) Eject one rowdy fan and another replaces him. That's true for any sporting event, let alone college basketball. That doesn't mean ignore everything, but it does seem like jousting at windmills.
So what would make a difference?
Coaches have to set the tone (Wahl reports neither Oregon coach Ernie Kent or Illinois' Bruce Weber addressed the vulgar fans on the P.A. systems). Without them, nothing would change.
I know it's not their main job requirement, but it can't be ignored, either. They're the most visible part of any college program and they carry weight, even among young kids who might ignore most authority figures.
Even established, rowdy fans like the Cameron Crazies or the Izzone can get carried away. But when Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo want their fans to behave, they do. There's no reason coaches at all schools can't follow that model.
That won't solve everything, but it's a start.