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With 7 minutes, 41 seconds remaining in the first half of last Friday night's Carrier Classic, Michigan State freshman forward Branden Dawson was running downcourt to chase an outlet pass when he suddenly slipped on the large decal at halfcourt bearing the name of the event's title sponsor, Quicken Loans.
For nearly five minutes, the 8,000 spectators aboard the USS Carl Vinson, including the President of the United States, held their collective breath as Dawson writhed in pain, clutching his right knee. Thousands more Spartans fans watching on television did the same. Fortunately, Dawson walked off the court under his own power and he returned shortly before halftime.
A disaster may have been averted, but it's only a matter of time before it strikes for real. It's always upsetting to see a player get hurt, but we all understand it's part of the game. What's not part of the game are the large, garish and dangerous decals that have become all-too-commonplace during these early-season college basketball tournaments.
Corporate signage is an intrusive, but a necessary evil in order to attract requisite dollars. But in nearly every game I've watched that was played on a court that had a decal, at least one player has slipped. Coaches have been complaining for years, but those objections are obviously falling on deaf ears.
"I hate those things," North Carolina coach Roy Williams said after the game. "I think it's stupid to put them out there."
Not surprisingly, Spartans coach Tom Izzo was even more emphatic, considering it was his player who almost got hurt badly.
"They gotta get those things off [the court], man," he said. "They're just not safe. Let us wear the sponsor logos. I know we need the sponsors. I want 'em. But it's just too dangerous out there."
There are many possible fixes. Izzo raised one idea to have coaches and/or players wear logos. Williams offered a better one by suggesting the television networks superimpose the logos graphically onto the playing surface.
"I watch a lot of football," Williams said. "They have a line [to mark the first down]. They don't put that on the field, they put it on the screen. If we want to give someone some publicity, put it on there, but don't put the kids in danger of slipping and sliding on something."
The time has come for a university or conference to propose NCAA legislation banning the use of signs that are not a permanent part of the playing surface. Absent that, schools like North Carolina and Michigan State -- the big brands whom corporate sponsors so badly need -- can simply refuse to participate in any tournament or game that uses decals. The National Association of Basketball Coaches could take that boycott nationwide pretty easily.
Whatever the answer, someone needs to come up with it fast.
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