The Southeastern Conference on Friday removed its ban on alcohol sales at sporting events but left the decision on how to proceed in the hands of each individual school.
Many schools, including the University of Kentucky, already permitted the sale of alcohol in select areas of stadiums and arenas, but Friday’s ruling opens the door to stadium-wide sales.
The SEC was the only one of the five major conferences with such a ban in place. The University of Louisville, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, has long allowed alcohol sales at its games.
“The SEC has taken the right approach to this important issue by deferring to the individual, member institutions to make decisions about what is in the best interests of each university, their programs, and their fans,” UK President Eli Capilouto said in a news release Friday. “Led by Director (of Athletics Mitch) Barnhart, UK will take the next several months to consider this issue. We will, as always, seek to do what is right for the university, our student-athletes, and the experience and safety of our fans.”
The rule change, which was widely expected, was passed during the league’s annual spring meetings of administrators in Destin, Fla.
The change is 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.
Under the new policy, any schools that decide to offer alcohol sales in public areas must abide by a conference-wide set of regulations. Those include:
▪ Alcoholic beverages are to be sold only at stationary locations, not by vendors in seating areas.
▪ Identification checks are required for all sales.
▪ Alcoholic beverages are limited to beer and wine. No hard liquor or mixed drinks may be sold in public seating areas.
▪ Limits must be established on the number of drinks purchased at one time by an individual.
▪ Alcohol must be dispensed into cups.
▪ Staff training is required to handle high-risk situations.
Additionally, sales are to be discontinued at designated times during each sporting event. Those limits include:
Football: End of the third quarter.
Men’s basketball: Second-half 12-minute TV timeout.
Women’s basketball: End of the third quarter.
Baseball: After the top of the seventh inning.
Softball: After the top of the fifth inning.
Other sports: No later than 75 percent of the way through the event.
Restrictions on alcohol sales at college sporting events have been lifted or reduced at many venues in recent years. Last March, the NCAA began allowing the sale of beer and wine at concession stands during men’s basketball postseason games.
Rupp Arena serves beer, wine, bourbon cocktails and vodka at concerts and other events. It would sell beer and wine — but no hard liquor — as the host site for an NCAA Tournament. Rupp Arena is next scheduled to host NCAA Tournament games in 2021.
Rupp Arena plans to expand its regular-season access to alcohol by adding three new hospitality rooms on the west side of the building and a fourth on the east side. Much like suites and other exclusive areas in football stadiums, these rooms are not open to every ticket holder. Kroger Field, home of the UK football team, allows alcohol sales only in premium seating areas as well.
The NCAA has experimented in recent years with beer and wine sales at championships in such sports as baseball, softball, wrestling, men’s ice hockey, volleyball, Football Championship Series football and men’s and women’s lacrosse.
The SEC’s change is 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?
The Associated Press contributed to this article.