University to Look at Tip-Off Safety Changes

The University will look at “several changes” to make the event safer for students and spectators

Photo Courtesy/Athletic Communications

Photo Courtesy/Athletic Communications

Dylan Hornik, Co-Sports Editor

After a wild performance that ended St. John’s annual basketball Tip-Off event last year earlier than expected, the University has promised changes to the way Public Safety officials will handle the typically raucous crowd at this year’s event.  

Tip-Off is designed as a sort of pep rally for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The two teams are introduced one by one and play an intrasquad scrimmage.

There are also games and prizes for fans in attendance. Normally, the spectacle concludes with a short performance from a famous musical artist.

Past performers include French Montana and Mac Miller. Last year, hip hop artist Desiigner, real name Sidney Royal Selby III — whose hit song “Panda” reached the top spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and finished 2016 at No. 6 — took the floor at Carnesecca Arena as Tip-Off’s main attraction.

He worked his way through two songs, “Panda” and his other hit “Timmy Turner,” bringing the crowd to the verge of delirium before surprisingly inviting the largely-student audience onto the court, past the Public Safety brigade that protected the stands.

Several students made it to the court before the arena lights came on and an announcement was made over the public address system that the night was over. The University also cut Desiigner’s mic.

The result was a major safety hazard that could have threatened the health of students, alumni, athletes, administrators and others.

“The University believed that the artist who performed at St. John’s Red Storm Tip Off created a potential crowd-control issue by inviting a sell-out crowd onto the court during his performance,” St. John’s said in a statement following the event. “For that reason, the University made the decision to stop the performance to ensure that no one was injured. Our primary concern is always for the safety of our students and all who attend St. John’s sponsored events.”

In response, the University will be taking extra precautions to ensure that those in attendance at Tip-Off are safe, Executive Director of Public Safety Denise Vencak said in a statement obtained by the Torch this week.  

“As with any event held on campus, the safety of our students and University community is of utmost importance to the Department of Public Safety,” the statement reads. “We continuously reevaluate and enhance our safety measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all attendees. In response to last year’s Tip Off event, we are looking at several changes to ensure the safety of the University Community.”

The University did not disclose particulars about safety strategies for public, widely-attended events.

However, the chaos of last year’s event should weigh heavily enough for the University to make some significant changes in how Tip-Off is conducted.

This year’s musical act has not yet been announced. Tip-Off will take place at Carnesecca Arena on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, but space is limited.