KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Southeastern Conference announced Monday the University of Tennessee will be fined and must meet requirements set forth by the Commissioner after fans threw trash onto the field, interrupting the game against Ole Miss on Saturday, Oct. 16.
Officials had to stop Saturday's game for nearly 20 minutes after a controversial fourth down call during the final minute of the Ole Miss-Tennessee football game prompted some UT fans to start throwing trash on the field.
Ole Miss had to clear their sidelines in fear of getting hurt. The Pride of the Southland Marching Band and UT cheerleading squad also had to leave the field to avoid being struck by any of the debris.
Former Vols head coach Lane Kiffin, now the coach of the Rebels, said he was hit with a golf ball during the trash throwing. He brought it with him to his postgame press conference.
He also said he got hit with some bottles with brown stuff in them. He didn't know what it was but said he didn't think fans would waste their moonshine on him.
"The disruption of Saturday night's game is unacceptable and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "Today's actions are consistent with the oversight assigned by the membership to the SEC office, including the financial penalty and 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 reengage 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."
According to a release from the SEC, under the conference's sportsmanship, game management and alcohol availability policies, UT will:
- Be assessed a financial penalty of $250,000, which will be deducted from the university's share of SEC revenue distribution.
- Be required to use all available resources, including security, stadium and television video, to identify individuals who threw objects onto the playing field or at the opposing team. All individuals identified as having been involved in disrupting the game shall be prohibited from attending Tennessee Athletics events for the remainder of the 2021-22 academic and athletic year.
- Review and update its Athletics Department game management procedures and alcohol availability policies to prevent a recurrence of Saturday night's disruption, which shall include an evaluation of agreed-upon SEC Sportsmanship, Game Management and Alcohol policies to verify full compliance with existing standards.
- Following completion of this review and prior to the University of Tennessee's next home football game, the university shall provide a report to the Conference Office to summarize its efforts to identify and penalize offenders and its plan to enact policies to prevent future similar incidents while ensuring compliance with Conference standards.
The SEC said these actions are consistent with the Commissioner's Regulations relating to the availability of alcoholic beverages at athletics events which states, "If cans or plastic bottles are used as projectiles or otherwise cause game management issues, the institution is subject to an immediate fine and suspension of the alcohol sales privilege."
The SEC said it is not suspending alcohol sales privileges for UT at this time but reserves the right to do so if other requirements outlined above are not met.
Shortly after the SEC's announcement, Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White issued the following statement:
“I was in communication with Commissioner Sankey throughout the weekend, and we discussed a variety of things that took place Saturday night. As I stated after the game, the actions that led to the temporary stoppage of play were unacceptable. 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 the Tennessee fanbase as a whole, I understand this imperative action by the league. Safety is paramount.
Some elements of what the league office has instructed were already in motion, as a review of in-venue video began this weekend. Internally—and in collaboration with our campus partners—we’ll continue to evaluate accountability measures and develop an action and education plan for future games.”
In a press conference on Monday, Vols head coach Josh Heupel praised the energy and atmosphere on Saturday night.
"To see our student body rush down to the bottom part of the section and the remainder of our crowd to be amped up for the final minute of the play, that’s the take-away," Heupel said.
"Our administration has obviously made it clear that isn’t what we want from the volunteer spirit. You know that I feel the same way. It was a very few number. I’ve been in a lot of competitive arenas as a player and as a coach. There was nothing better than I’ve ever been in that happened on Saturday night.”