DESTIN, Fla. (AP) — The powerhouse Southeastern Conference league bellied up to the bar Friday and voted to allow the sale of beer and wine at sporting events.
Chancellors and school presidents approved the revised rules during the conference’s annual spring meetings. The changes are expected to enhance events and create a new revenue stream at a time when schools are spending more on coaches, improving facilities and preparing for the possibility of having to pay players.
The SEC’s 14 schools were previously prohibited from selling alcohol in public areas at venues.
Each school now will decide whether to sell alcohol and, if so, to designate the locations where beer and wine will be available.
The new rules include a series of league-wide alcohol management procedures, including a restriction that prohibits sales by vendors in seating areas; a limit on the number of alcoholic beverages purchased per customer; and designated times that sales must end during events.
The changes also are sure to draw plenty of cheers and probably some jeers from fans. Will there be more underage drinking? Will there be more fights? Will there be more arrests? What about the longstanding argument that colleges should do everything to curb unruly behavior on campus?
“This policy is intended to enhance the game-day experience at SEC athletics events by providing our schools the autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their respective campuses while also establishing expectations for responsible management of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages,” said South Carolina President Harris Pastides, the current chair of the league’s presidents and chancellors.
Officials from Vanderbilt Athletics released the following statement about the lifting of the ban:
"This is a significant development, and we are considering how Vanderbilt will approach this policy change. Our highest priority will be providing a safe and positive experience for everyone attending a home football game at Vanderbilt Stadium. We're always looking for ways to provide the best gameday experience possible for our loyal supporters, and that means regularly reviewing our amenities offerings. In anticipation of today's decision, we have been studying this topic extensively and have met with peer institutions currently offering alcohol sales to understand best practices for implementing this change in a safe manner. The addition of a premium tented lounge area for fans to purchase beer and alcoholic seltzer this past baseball season also proved to be a successful pilot program and gave us valuable insights on how to handle alcohol sales."
The policy takes effect Aug. 1, 2019, and does not impact suites, clubs or privately leased areas in which the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages was previously permitted under existing SEC regulations.
Some of the key rules put in place:
- Alcohol must be dispensed into cups.
- Servers will be trained to handle high-risk situations.
- No alcohol will be served after the end of the third quarter at football games.
- No alcohol will be served after the 12-minute TV timeout during the second half of men’s basketball games and none after the third quarter of women’s games.
- No alcohol will be served after the top of seventh inning at baseball games and after the top of the fifth inning in softball games.
- No alcohol will be served after 75% of all other event’s regulation length has been completed.