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SEC hammers Tennessee with first-of-its-kind $250,000 fine; reserves right to ban alcohol sales at Neyland Stadium

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey revealed the hefty fine against UT athletics Monday afternoon after the melee at the end of the Tennessee-Ole Miss game.
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The Southeastern Conference this season already had levied fines against the University of Arkansas, as well as the University of Kentucky, after fans of each school's football program rushed their respective fields to celebrate significant victories.

Monday, the SEC announced it was fining the University of Tennessee a similarly hefty six-figure sum – $250,000 to be precise – for fans' behavior.

This time, however, it's in response to the Vols' fans' decisions to pelt the Neyland Stadium turf with trash ranging from plastic water bottles to aluminum beer cans to a random mustard bottle and countless other elements, including that neon-yellow golf ball that exited the Shields-Watkins Field turf inside Lane Kiffin's pocket.

"The disruption of Saturday night's game is unacceptable, and cannot be repeated on any SEC campus," league commissioner Greg Sankey said in the SEC's release. "(These) 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 other words, though the SEC isn't presently revoking Tennessee's ability to sell beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages inside Neyland Stadium at this time, the league is reserving the right to do so in the future if fan behavior again is placed front and center.

It is the first such fine imposed by the SEC in the three football seasons since alcohol sales were voted into acceptable practice at the SEC's 2019 Spring Meetings in Destin, Florida.

The SEC said it will collect the quarter-million-dollar penalty from Tennessee's coffers by withholding those funds from the league's next revenue-distribution payment.

Saturday night's Tennessee-Ole Miss game was halted for some 20 minutes of actual time when less than one minute of game-time remained on the playing clocks after a controversial fourth-down play.

Vols tight end Jacob Warren gathered in quarterback Hendon Hooker's pass on fourth-and-24; Warren, a Knoxville-area product, was ruled to have been tackled about 23.5 yards downfield – and mere inches from a first down that would have kept alive Tennessee's upset hopes.

After officials upheld the on-field ruling that Warren was stopped short of the line to gain, a wild scene unfolded – primarily from the Vols' student section in the southeast corner of the 100-year-old stadium.

By Saturday night, both UT Chancellor Donde Plowman and Danny White, the program's first-year athletics director, had issued statements via social media that condemned the fan behavior.

The SEC cited the league's guidelines established around the on-campus sale of alcoholic beverages from 2019 as for its purview to levy UT with the $250,000 penalty.

“The actions taken by the Conference are consistent with SEC Commissioner's Regulations related to the availability of alcoholic beverages at athletics events which states,” per the SEC release, which also noted, per those regulations, "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 also has charged UT officials with scrutinizing all accounts of Saturday's loss to Ole Miss, including video surveillance and other means, in an effort to potentially identify as many violators as possible.

In addition, the SEC has announced it is requiring UT officials to submit a report to the league office outlining its findings and the school's plan for its next home game – which doesn't fall on the schedule until top-ranked Georgia is scheduled to visit Nov. 6.