MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The community is remembering a loyal Memphis Tigers fan who died over the weekend after an accident at the Tigers' game in Knoxville.
Some people who were with him said their host, the University of Tennessee, might have contributed to his death.
“He’s been an enthusiast of Memphis basketball [for] I don’t know how long," friend Johnnie Rainey said.
Rodell Boyd could always be found on the sidelines cheering on his favorite team.
Friends said he had been a member of the Rebounders, the U of M basketball booster club, for 40 years.
"He’s just a fan of sports," Rainey said. "He really loved University of Memphis, Memphis State, the Rebounders."
That’s what took him to Knoxville. He went to watch his Tigers play the Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday.
Family members said Boyd lived and died by his team, and that’s exactly what happened — quite literally.
“That’s when I got the call from my cousin Traci (Boyd's daughter), who said he had a bad fall," Rainey said. "He was either on his way down or back up to his seat, which was 65 steep steps up in to the arena.”
Rainey is a board member on the Rebounders. She shared a photo that shows how high in the area they were sitting.
She said they requested about 10 handicap-accessible tickets for elderly members like 88-year-old Boyd, but they were told that couldn't be done.
“They were told they were really just for season ticket holders or their fans and weren’t available," Rainey said.
Rainey is frustrated and wishes the University of Tennessee had given their group more consideration and blames the steep steps for Boyd’s death.
The university disputed the claim that the group was denied handicap-accessible seating because of the team they support, and a spokesperson sent WREG the following statement.
Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time.
Medical personnel responded to an apparent cardiac event involving a fan at Saturday’s basketball game against Memphis, and the individual was transported from the arena.
Handicap-accessible seating is available to all arena visitors who request it--regardless of which team they support--both in advance and if they express a need while attending a game.
Boyd’s family members said he died from cardiac arrest, and they believe it was just his time.
“He was where he wanted to be that night, to see the Tigers," Rainey said.
They say the father, grandfather and retired school principal can now rest in peace.