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Pac-12 changes rules on night games, field-storming, eSports

Colorado fans storm the court after Colorado defeated Arizona 75-72 in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/Cliff Grassmick)

The Pac-12 announced Tuesday a set of changes following its annual meetings of member school presidents and chancellors that will go into effect for the coming school year.

Among the changes is the approval for the Pac-12 to modify its agreements with ESPN and FOX Sports to allow for fewer start times later than 7:00 p.m. for football games. Pac-12 Networks may now broadcast football games at the 2:30 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. time slot, even if those start times overlap with that of the aforementioned cable networks.

“The increased exposure and revenue from our contracts with ESPN and FOX Sports have been instrumental to our success, but we continue to work hard to minimize as much as possible the negative impact late start times have on our fans who travel great distances to see our teams in person,” Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said via a Pac-12 press release.

This will obviously affect both Arizona State and Arizona. Last year, seven of ASU’s 12 regular-season football games started at 7:00 p.m. or later, while UA had six such night games.

Also adopted by the conference: fans who storm courts or fields at Pac-12 venues may now also cost their school a fine. The Pac-12 board approved the recommendation to add fines for the first, second and third offenses at $25,000, $50,000 and $100,000, respectively.

“This enhanced policy underscores the importance our universities place on the safety and welfare of our student-athletes, officials and fans,” said UC Berkeley athletic director Mike Williams.

Arizona men’s basketball coach Sean Miller has been an outspoken critic on the topic of court-storming. After a road loss at Colorado in February, Miller blasted the lack of regulations in place to keep players safe in court-storming situations.

“The one thing that I’ll say about our situation is simple, this: I have no problem being a great sport and I have no problem recognizing that Colorado deserved to win tonight. They won the game. They’re the better team. But eventually what’s going to happen in the Pac-12 is this: An Arizona player is going to punch a fan. And they’re going to punch the fan out of self-defense. And when it happens, only when it happens, will everybody say `We have to do something so that when the game ends we have a deep breath to be able to leave the court. Or at least shake the other team’s hand and then get to our locker room.’

“And then if the court wants to be stormed, fine. But until that happens, it’s fallen on deaf ears because there’s only one team right now that the court’s stormed on and for three consecutive years anytime we lose a game on the road it’s the same. Some are more under control, some aren’t. But if 7-foot, 250–pound Kaleb Tarzcewski gets bumped literally three seconds after the game ends and he retaliates, what would be the response of our conference? What would be the response? If more teams were having the court stormed on them, I wouldn’t be the only guy who’s bringing it up.”

While the new rules passed by the Pac-12 won’t prevent court or field storming, it creates a deterrent for overzealous fans, and that’s at least a step in the right direction.

Lastly, Pac-12 Networks may now broadcast or facilitate eSports events between Pac-12 schools, given the “growing interest amongst Pac-12 students in competitive video gaming.”

“eSports is also closely tied to academic departments at Pac-12 universities such as computer science, visual and cinematic arts, engineering and others,” the release read.

Game titles and event formats have not yet been determined.

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