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SEC fines Tennessee Volunteers $250K after fans throw debris during Ole Miss game

SEC fines Tennessee Volunteers $250K after fans throw debris during Ole Miss game
Campus police arrested 18 people and at least 47 people were removed from Saturday's game at Neyland Stadium between the Tennessee Vols and Ole Miss Rebels after the incident. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Oct. 18 (UPI) -- The Southeastern Conference announced Monday it has issued the University of Tennessee a $250,000 fine in the aftermath of Volunteers fans throwing bottles and other debris on the field near the end of the team's 31-26 loss to Ole Miss over the weekend.

With under a minute remaining in Saturday's college football game between the SEC foes, the matchup was halted for 20 minutes when Vols fans started showering the Ole Miss sideline with bottles, cans and other objects, including a mustard bottle and a golf ball that appeared to strike Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin in the arm.

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Before the turmoil began, the Volunteers had just been stopped on fourth down after a controversial ball spot by officials.

Rebels players and coaches moved away from the sideline and stood near the middle of the field while debris rained down. Ole Miss cheerleaders also were evacuated from the sideline, and Tennessee's marching band and cheerleaders were relocated from their normal places.

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In addition to the large fine, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey laid out requirements that Tennessee must adhere to under the sportsmanship, game management and alcohol availability policies established by the conference.

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"The disruption of Saturday night's game is unacceptable and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus," Sankey said in a statement Monday. "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 re-emphasize 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."

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The SEC isn't suspending alcohol sales for the University of Tennessee "at this time," according to the conference's news release, but reserves the right to make that change if the school fails to meet all of the requirements outlined by the league.

Campus police arrested 18 people and at least 47 people were removed from Saturday's game after the incident, according to a preliminary report from the UT Police Department.

Tisha Benton, a spokesperson for the school, said any students identified as taking part in the incident will lose the ability to attend future Vols games.

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"As I stated after the game, the actions that led to the temporary stoppage of play were unacceptable," Tennessee athletic director Danny 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 the Tennessee fanbase as a whole, I understand this imperative action by the league. Safety is paramount."

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