The University of Tennessee will be fined $250,000 by the SEC after fans threw trash and debris – including a golf ball – onto the Neyland Stadium field late in the fourth quarter of the Volunteers’ 31-26 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday.
The conference announced Monday that in addition to the fine, Tennessee must adhere to requirements under the league’s sportsmanship, game management and alcohol availability policies. Alcohol sales won’t be suspended as of now, but if Tennessee fails to meet requirements, they could be.
“The disruption of Saturday night’s game is unacceptable and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “Today’s actions are consistent with the oversight assigned by the membership to the SEC office, including the financial penalty and the review of alcohol availability. We will use this opportunity to reemphasize to each SEC member the importance of providing a safe environment even with the intensity of competition that occurs every week. We will also re-engage our membership in further review of the alcohol availability policy to consider additional measures for the sale and management of alcohol while providing the appropriate environment for collegiate competition.”
Saturday’s game featured a 20-minute stoppage after a controversial spot call went against Tennessee with 54 seconds left. Fans threw bottles, cans and other objects at the Rebels’ sideline, including a mustard bottle and golf ball that nearly hit Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. Ole Miss players and cheerleaders were moved away from the sideline while the Tennessee band was relocated.
With three timeouts left, the Volunteers eventually got the ball with a chance to win the game, but after quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with injury, backup Joe Milton ran out of bounds as time expired, failing to realize the situation. The loss moved the Vols to 4-3.
According to WVLT News in Knoxville, 18 people were arrested and 47 were removed from the game by the UT police department. Sankey said in a radio interview on Sunday night that stopping the game altogether was considered.
UT chancellor Donde Plowman and athletic director Danny White have both condemned the fans involved.
“As I stated after the game, the actions that led to the temporary stoppage in play were unacceptable,” White said in a statement. “The conduct of a small percentage of fans has led to unfortunate consequences on multiple fronts. While I don’t believe that conduct is representative of Tennessee fans as a whole, I understand this imperative action by the league. Safety is paramount.”
The requirements by the league include using all available resources to identify fans who threw objects and banning them from attending Tennessee athletic events for the rest of the 2021-22 season, as well as reviewing and updating its game management procedures and alcohol availability policies to prevent a repeat of Saturday. The school must also provide a report to the SEC office summarizing efforts to identify offenders and its plan to prevent a future incident from occurring prior to Tennessee’s next home game.
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