Alcohol is likely coming to an SEC stadium near you. The conference announced Friday that it has lifted its ban on alcoholic beverages in general seating areas of on-campus venues, and will allow beer and wine sales starting on Aug. 1. The previous ban on alcoholic beverages had been in place for more than 30 years, with the only exception being fans in premium seating areas such as luxury boxes.
"Our policy governing alcohol sales has been a source of considerable discussion and respectful debate among our member universities in recent years," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. "As a conference, we have been observant of trends in the sale and consumption of alcohol at collegiate sporting events and have drawn upon the experiences and insights of our member schools which have responsibly established limited alcohol sales within controlled spaces and premium seating areas. We remain the only conference to set forth league-wide standards for the responsible management of the sale of alcoholic beverages."
The new rule will allow schools to make their own decisions on selling alcoholic beverages, and which venues they are available at. Drinks will only be available at designated stationary locations, and won't be sold by vendors in seating areas. Service will be cutoff at the end of the third quarter of football games, the second half 12-minute television timeout in men's basketball, the end of the third quarter in women's basketball and the middle of the 7th inning in baseball. The cutoff for other sports is no later than when 75 percent of the event's regulation time has elapsed.
"We are proud of the great game-day atmospheres the SEC and our member schools have cultivated throughout our history, and no other conference rivals the SEC in terms of our ability to offer an intense yet family-friendly atmosphere for all of our fans," said South Carolina president Harris Pastides, chair of the SEC presidents and chancellors. "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."
The freedom for SEC schools to serve alcohol is the latest in a trend of schools that have done so to improve fan experience and increase revenue. According to InsideHigherEd.com, West Virginia reported a "sharp decline" in alcohol-related incidents since it began serving beer and wine in 2011. The school generated more than $3 million in revenue from alcohol sales from 2011-16. According to the Register-Guard, Oregon's alcohol-related ejections decreased by 49 percent midway through the 2018 season when compared to the same time frame in 2017. Sales during that same time period at Autzen Stadium increased by 61 percent.
SEC schools that wish to serve alcohol will have to implement a server training program for on-site staff members.