Tennessee Must Ban Fans Who Threw Garbage at Ole Miss Players, Pay SEC $250K

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) announced Monday that the University of Tennessee must attempt to identify and then ban any fans who threw trash during a game against the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss") on Saturday. In addition, the school must pay a $250,000 fine.

The punishment is the result of Tennessee fans protesting a call during the game by throwing trash onto the field at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee. Ole Miss players were forced to leave the field due to the flying debris, and the game was significantly delayed. By the end of the night, police said there were more than a dozen arrests and nearly 50 ejections.

"The disruption of Saturday night's game is unacceptable and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement.

University of Tennessee
The Southeastern Conference announced Monday it was punishing the University of Tennessee for a massive fan disruption during a game against Ole Miss on Saturday. In this photo, Tennessee fans are seen during a game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Neyland Stadium on October 12, 2019 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Getty

Tennessee was also told to update its game management procedures and alcohol availability policies to prevent such an event from occurring in the future. The SEC said it's not suspending Tennessee's ability to sell alcohol at the stadium at this time, but the conference said it may revisit that decision if the university doesn't meet the stated stipulations.

"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," Sankey said. "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," Sankey added.

Tennessee was facing fourth-and-24 late in the fourth quarter during Saturday's game when its quarterback completed a pass close to the first-down mark. After the referees spotted the ball just short of the first down, Tennessee fans erupted in anger.

Soon, trash rained down onto the field from the stands, with most reportedly coming from the student section of Neyland Stadium. ESPN seemingly captured Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin—former coach for Tennessee—being hit with a golf ball during the chaos.

Kiffin and his players left the sideline and Tennessee's cheerleaders retreated to the locker room.

University of Tennessee Chancellor Donde Plowman addressed the incident on Twitter, condemning those who participated in the raucous scene.

"I am astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol [Volunteers] fans at the end of tonight's game," Plowman tweeted early on Sunday. "Good sportsmanship must be part of who we are as Volunteers. Behavior that puts student-athletes, visitors and other fans at risk is not something we will tolerate."

I am astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol fans at the end of tonight's game. Good sportsmanship must be part of who we are as Volunteers. Behavior that puts student-athletes, visitors and other fans at risk is not something we will tolerate. 1/2

— Donde Plowman (@DondePlowman) October 17, 2021

The University of Tennessee Police Department reported there had been 18 arrests as of Monday. Forty-seven fans were ejected from the game.

Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White provided a statement to Newsweek following SEC's announcement.

"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," White wrote. "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," White continued. "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."

Update 10/18/21 5:10 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from Tennessee Vice Chancellor/Director of Athletics Danny White.