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February 11, 2014

For many, fan behavior goes too far too often

NORMAN — Public address announcers around the country frequently tell fans before games that unsportsmanlike behavior toward athletes, coaches or officials won’t be tolerated.

Then, once the ball goes up, it is tolerated.

Universities and college conferences have policies to handle fans behaving badly. Administrators don’t want athletes taking matters into their own hands; yet, many players and coaches feel fans routinely cross the line with profanity-laced tirades, racial slurs and obscene gestures while those policies — typically threatening ejection — are rarely enforced.

Oklahoma State All-American guard Marcus Smart is suspended three games for shoving a Texas Tech fan who later apologized for his actions. The incident shows how volatile the interaction between fans and athletes is becoming, especially with the proximity between the two.

“When you sign up to play a sport in college, you sign away whatever freedoms you thought you had coming to college,” Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma said. “You can’t react like a normal human being.

“Someone says something, you can’t react. All of a sudden people, especially adults, say and can do what they want to a college kid on the floor knowing they have no recourse. They have to take it. I don’t agree with that, but that’s the world. Someone pays $20 to watch a basketball game and you can be an idiot.”

Smart’s altercation with Red Raiders fan Jeff Orr happened late in Saturday’s game after he tumbled out of bounds behind the basket after tying to block a shot. After being helped to his feet, Smart quickly turned to confront Orr and shoved him with two hands after it appeared Orr said something to him. Teammates pulled Smart away from the fans.

That same night, Oregon coach Dana Altman expressed concerns about safety after two of his staffers said an Arizona State student spit at them at halftime of the game in Tempe, Ariz. The student had his season tickets revoked, according to the school.

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