Tennessee chancellor Donde Plowman said she was “sickened” by the conduct of home fans Saturday night in the Volunteers’ loss to Mississippi — behavior that caused a stoppage of nearly 20 minutes as fans threw water bottles and other objects onto the field in the closing minute.
“I am astonished and sickened by the behavior of some Vol fans at the end of tonight’s game,” she posted to social media after the 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. I will be calling (Mississippi) Chancellor (Glenn) Boyce in the morning to offer my personal apology on behalf of the University of Tennessee and discuss what we can do to make this right. Neyland Stadium has always been a place for families, and we’ll keep it that way.”
With 54 seconds left, after officials ruled Tennessee’s attempt to convert a fourth-and-24 play failed by about a yard, fans began throwing things onto the turf. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, the former Volunteers coach, was hit by a golf ball in the arm. His players put on their helmets for safety, the Tennessee cheerleaders, dance squad and marching band filed out, and the student section was cleared.
Tennessee got the ball back and had a chance to score in the waning seconds, but backup quarterback Joe Milton, with the ball at the Ole Miss 21, couldn’t find an open receiver and ran, falling 8 yards short of a score as time expired. Ole Miss won 31-26.
Tennessee athletic director Danny White also said he apologized to his counterpart at Mississippi.
“Our Tennessee fanbase had much to be proud of through 59 minutes of football Saturday night — they created one of the best live sporting event atmospheres I’ve ever experienced — but what transpired in the game’s final minute was unacceptable.
“While I’m incredibly proud of our team’s effort on the field, I’m disappointed that their relentless performance was overshadowed in the game’s closing moments by the actions of several fans whose actions did not represent the Volunteer Spirit or the true character of our university.
“On behalf of the University of Tennessee, I’d like to apologize to the Ole Miss football program and congratulate their student-athletes on a hard fought win. I spoke with Keith Carter after the game and expressed the same sentiment to him.”
–Field Level Media