UT AD: Vols shouldn't have gone in stands

ATHENS – Tennessee athletic director Mike Hamilton has acknowledged his basketball coach made a mistake Saturday by sending the Volunteers players into the Stegeman Coliseum stands to thank fans after Tennessee beat Georgia 83-78 on Saturday.

Hamilton apologized personally to Georgia athletic director Damon Evans in Atlanta on Monday, Evans said.

"It's not a good idea to have the student-athletes from the opposing team going into the stands," Evans said. "One of the many reasons you have the SEC rule of not allowing fans to go onto the court is to protect the players. Anytime you get the players in the stands, it makes it that much more difficult for the event management to protect the players."

Stegeman Coliseum witnessed its first sellout of the season on Saturday and about 20 percent of the fans were Volunteer partisans. After the Volunteers held off the Bulldogs in the final minutes, the players made their way up the stairs to the concourse separating the first and second levels and shook hands with their fans.

"It put the Georgia security people in a bad situation, and frankly, it put our people in a bad situation," Hamilton said. "It happened in the excitement of the moment, and our intentions were good. It was truly a celebration of our fans. But all things being equal, we don't need to have our players in the stands of an opposing arena. It wasn't fair to put Georgia in that kind of position."

While schools are fined $5,000 if their fans come onto the floor at home following a big win, there is no conference rule prohibiting players from entering the stands, so Tennessee will not be reprimanded for the incident. Although some Bulldog fans yelled at the Volunteers in the stands, there were no ugly incidents.

The Volunteers went into the stands at the suggestion of first-year Coach Bruce Pearl, who has them leading the SEC East and bound for the NCAA Tournament.

"I don't think (Pearl) had bad intentions whatsoever," Evans said. "I can't tell you what he was thinking, but I know Coach Pearl is excited about what's going on with Tennessee basketball, which he should be. I just don't think it's a good idea to have the student athletes in the crowd because it breaks down the entire mechanism for protecting the players."

Pearl said he did not mean to upstage Georgia in its home arena with the gesture.

"We waited until Georgia had gotten off the court and gone into the locker room so that we would not in any way be trying to show them up," he said. "It was just something that was pretty spontaneous, but had been thought out in the past."

Dawg Post Top Stories