SEC reviews field-access rules after Alabama-Tennessee issue

Less than a month after an Alabama football player appeared to strike a fan who stormed the field at Tennessee, the SEC announced Friday that it is forming a working group to address fans' access to playing fields and courts after games.

The event-security working group will review and update field access policies and "consider strategies to support effective crowd management for the purpose of enhancing the safety and experience of fans, teams, staff and officials," according to a news release.

"Current Conference policies need to be reviewed and improved with a focus on addressing field and court incursions by spectators after contests," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in the statement. "The SEC's Working Group on Event Security will focus its efforts on reviewing existing policies, developing new strategies and identifying best practices to enhance crowd management and more effectively address field and court incursions at future SEC athletics events."

Last month, Alabama receiver Jermaine Burton appeared to strike a fan after Tennessee upset the Crimson Tide.

Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't suspend Burton and told reporters he didn't think it was necessary because, "If you knew the whole story, maybe you wouldn't either."

Saban wouldn't divulge any details.

"Look," he said. "I don't know how many of you have ever been in a situation like that. But I talked to [Burton]. He was scared. I was scared. Some of our other players were scared."

But, he added, "I think you learn to respect other people because we have a responsibility to do that regardless of the circumstance that we're in."

Tennessee was fined $100,000 for a second violation of the SEC's field-access policy. The previous incident was at a basketball game in 2006.

The working group is expected to consult with campus and industry experts and provide policy recommendations in time for the conference's 2023 spring meetings with implementation of any changes planned for the 2023-24 athletic year.

The group includes athletic directors Mitch Barnhart of Kentucky, Josh Brooks of Georgia and Greg Byrne of Alabama; Bryan Flood, assistant AD for game management at Florida; Jay Logan, associate AD for event and facility management at Mississippi State; Mike Johnson, chief of police at Texas A&M; and Kelvin King, executive director of campus safety and security at Auburn.

"Providing consistent and appropriate levels of safety and security remains the common goal of SEC member institutions," Sankey said. "Our institutions remain current and vigilant in crowd control best practices and continue to work with local law enforcement to develop effective security protocols at SEC venues and we need to continue the adaptation of Conference policies to address emerging realities."