KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Southeastern Conference has fined Tennessee $250,000 for fans stopping the Volunteers’ game with Mississippi for about 20 minutes throwing water bottles, beer cans, pizza boxes, hot dogs, a plastic mustard bottle and at least one golf ball onto the field late in the game.
The league office also announced Monday that Tennessee must meet other standards, including reviewing all possible video to identify and punish fans who threw anything onto the field late Saturday night. Tennessee’s cheerleaders and dance field left the field dodging trash, while the band also left the stands.
“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.
Tennessee’s fine will be deducted from its share of SEC revenue. Every person identified from video will be prohibited from attending a Tennessee athletics event for the rest of the 2021-22 academic and athletic year.
The SEC also wants Tennessee reviewing and updating game management procedures and alcohol policies. Tennessee also has to make sure it’s complying fully with the SEC’s current standards. Tennessee must report back before the Vols’ next home game Nov. 13 hosting No. 1 Georgia.
Tennessee athletic director Danny White said in a statement that he talked with Sankey repeatedly about what happened in the game. White again called the stoppage “unacceptable” and said some of what the SEC ordered already is happening, including the review of video to identify fans who disrupted the game.
“The conduct of a small percentage of fans has led to unfortunate consequences on multiple fronts,” White said. “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.”
SEC members can be fined immediately and risk alcohol sales being suspended immediately if “cans or plastic bottles are used as projectiles or otherwise cause game management issues.” The SEC is not suspending alcohol sales at Tennessee yet but made clear that could happen.
Play stopped when fans started throwing items after officials ruled Tennessee a yard shy of a first down on a fourth-and-24 pass with just over a minute left. Review confirmed the spot, then debris started flying from the stands. Once play resumed, Tennessee forced Ole Miss to punt and ran out of time in a 31-26 loss.
Sankey said the SEC is using this to remind each member of the need to keep stadiums and arenas safe. The SEC also will work with members to review the availability of alcohol policy and consider other rules for the sale and managing of alcohol “while providing the appropriate environment for collegiate competition.”