The University of Tennessee handed down punishments Friday after fans halted the October 16 game against Ole Miss by pelting the field with debris.
On Friday, Becca Wright of the Knoxville News Sentinel reported that the university had banned 16 Tennessee students from athletic events for the remainder of the school year, while nine other fans who do not attend the university will also not be allowed to attend Tennessee sporting events through the end of the spring semester.
Tennessee athletic director Danny White sent a letter to SEC commissioner Greg Sankey outlining the steps the university will take to prevent an occurrence like that one from happening again.
Tennessee will not allow “student guest tickets” for their game against Georgia on November 13, they will add security in the student section, and they will remove bottle caps at some concession stands.
The university was fined $250,000 by the SEC days after play had to be stopped for nearly 20 minutes as debris rained down from the stands onto the field late in the fourth quarter of the Ole Miss game.
With 54 seconds left in the game, Tennessee tight end Jacob Warren was ruled short of the first down marker on a fourth and 24 play, handing the ball back to Ole Miss with an opportunity to ice the game. Officials went to the replay monitor to check the mark and ruled that the call on the field would stand.
Fans began pelting the Ole Miss side of the field with debris. Water bottles, beer cans, and even a container of mustard were thrown toward the field, causing a 20-minute delay to the game as security attempted to get everything under control.
The Tennessee cheerleaders were forced to run for cover and Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was hit with a golf ball.
The SEC tasked the university with using all available resources to “identify individuals who threw objects on to the playing field or at the opposing team.”
“The disruption of Saturday night’s game is unacceptable and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus,” said Sankey two days after the incident. “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.”
In Friday’s letter to Sankey, Tennessee’s athletic director addressed Neyland Stadium’s alcohol service, saying “it was determined that we were compliant with existing standards—including the SEC’s Game Management Policy on Alcohol.”
“While we have been clear in expressing that the conduct of several in attendance on Oct. 16 was unacceptable, Chancellor Plowman and I also maintain that such disruptive behavior does not represent our fanbase as a whole,” the letter concludes. “We believe the Southeastern Conference standard of sportsmanship aligns with our university’s Volunteer Values, and we are confident that the recommendations outlined in our action plan will effectively aid in the prevention of future incidents.”
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].
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