Thursday, May 21, 2009 | 4:20 p.m.
Two basketball fans are suing UNLV and the Thomas & Mack Center, saying they were injured when scuffles erupted among fans after a 2008 championship game.
Utah County, Utah, residents Brett Walkenhorst and Chad Walkenhorst say they were hurt after a game on March 15, 2008. That's when UNLV's men's team won the Mountain West Conference Tournament by defeating regular-season champion BYU 76-61 and some fans rushed toward the celebration on the floor while others headed for the exits.
Their lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court this week, also names the Mountain West Conference as a defendant.
"As plaintiffs tried to protect their family from the crowd of people, plaintiff Brett Walkenhorst was subsequently hit in the face and knocked to the ground. Plaintiff Chad Walkenhorst was hit in the head," the suit alleges.
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Cory Jones of the Henderson law firm Royal, Jones, Miles, Dunkley & Wilson, alleges the defendants failed to supervise the Thomas & Mack Center in a reasonably safe manner.
Officials at the Thomas & Mack Center have not responded to the allegations and a spokeswoman had no immediate comment Thursday.
In seeking unspecified damages, Brett Walkenhorst says he sustained an eye injury that may be permanent and disabling while Chad Walkenhorst said he has a head injury that may be permanent and disabling.
In 2008, Deseret (Utah) News writer Mike Sorensen commented on the incidents after the game and noted they illustrate the potential conflict of a city hosting the MWC tournament when its team is in the event. He wrote:
"So on my flight home from Las Vegas yesterday, I saw a front-page story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the big fight between Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao, right underneath a story about UNLV's championship victory over BYU. However, there wasn't a word in the section about the fights at the Thomas & Mack Center after the UNLV-BYU title game. I guess the Las Vegas media were looking the other way, literally or figuratively, when all the mayhem was going on ...
"Oh, there was one mention about the 'brainless' security measures of trying to keep celebrating Rebel fans off the court, not the brainless fans mixing it up in the stands. The columnist had a decent point that a lot of the scuffles in the stands were a result of fans and ushers trying to keep exuberant fans from coming down the aisles. But what gives fans the right to 'rush the floor,' just because their team won?
"BYU fans weren't blameless in the melees, but next year, the MWC needs to figure out a way to separate the fans from the two competing schools. Of course, it's kind of difficult as long as the tournament is played at the home arena of a school with fans throughout the whole arena. But it may not be a great idea to have the band from the opposing school right next to a bunch of students from the host school. And if the MWC is serious about keeping fans off the court next year, they better replace the 70-year-old ushers in the red coats with some big-bodied bouncers from the Strip."
The incident gained such notoriety that fans opposed to BYU at the 2009 tournament at the Thomas & Mack -- during which BYU and UNLV did not play against each other -- took to chanting "Psycho Sarah" at Sarah Cummard, wife of BYU star player Lee Cummard.
The chant stemmed from an alleged incident during the 2008 BYU-UNLV championship game when Sarah Cummard was rumored to have thrown punches toward hostile Rebels fans.