DESTIN, Fla. — The Southeastern Conference’s version of the 18th Amendment has been repealed.
SEC presidents and chancellors voted here Friday on the final day of the SEC Spring Meetings to lift the league’s longstanding policy prohibiting stadium-wide alcohol sales.
Starting Aug. 1, SEC schools will be allowed to choose whether they want to allow beer and wine sales in general seating areas of their stadiums, including student sections. Until Friday, alcohol sales were limited to suites and club seating areas, or specially designated areas such as The Chute at Tiger Stadium and The Yard at Alex Box Stadium.
A game management policy rather than an SEC bylaw, the rule prohibiting stadium-wide alcohol sales is believed to have been in place since the late 1970s. The SEC was the only Power Five conference to prohibit alcohol sales throughout its sports venues.
“Institutions will have autonomy on how alcohol will be available under certain conference-wide expectations,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Now is the opportunity for our institutions to make appropriate decisions.”
Though LSU president F. King Alexander did not take part in Friday’s vote — he returned to Baton Rouge for Friday’s Board of Supervisors meeting — the school long has been a proponent of changing the rule. Athletic director Scott Woodward expressed hope Thursday that “for LSU’s standpoint we get a liberalization of the policy and see if we can serve it (alcohol) to our fans.”
DESTIN, Fla. — New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward seems right in his element this week as he represents his alma mater as a key player d…
Still, LSU did not announce immediate plans for stadium-wide alcohol sales. A statement from LSU senior associate athletic director Robert Munson said: “In light of the vote (Friday), we are reviewing the new policy in consultation with the conference and the university in order to do what is best for LSU and our fans.”
Sankey emphasized that alcohol sales will be allowed but strictly controlled. Among the provisions:
• Only beer and wine sales will be allowed.
• Sales will be cut off after the third quarter in football and women’s basketball.
• At men’s basketball games, sales will end after the under-12-minute timeout in the second half.
• At baseball games, sales will be cut off after the top of the seventh inning.
• At softball games, sales will end after the top of the fifth.
• In all other sports, sales will end after 75 percent of the regulation length of competition has been completed, such as after three rotations in gymnastics.
• Limits must be established on the number of drinks purchased at one time by a customer, and drinks must be dispensed into cups.
• Beer vendors walking through grandstand areas will be prohibited.
“We will be the only conference to have league-wide standards in place,” Sankey said.
Sankey also said each school must determine whether it will allow alcohol sales in student sections.
Marketing for beer and wine will be limited to the areas where those products will be dispensed, with extra signage inside stadiums and arenas not allowed.
Proponents of stadium-wide alcohol sales have long argued that it will cut down on pregame binge drinking, boost slowly eroding attendance and encourage fans to stay at a game longer if they don’t have to head back to their tailgate party to enjoy an adult beverage.
Then there is the matter of an additional revenue stream for athletic departments. According to Sports Illustrated, Big Ten schools such as Ohio State and Purdue have reported profits of over $1 million per year. At Texas the number is $3 million, plus a marketing agreement with Corona reportedly worth $5 million.
Those decisions will be up to the schools. Asked if there might one day be an official beer of the SEC, Sankey said: “There will not be that.”
In other news:
• The SEC did not forward an LSU proposal to the NCAA which would increase the number of scholarships for gymnastics from 12 to 14. Sankey said the conference was instead establishing a working group to look at scholarship limits in a number of sports.
• The SEC also did not name any future championship venues. LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux is hoping to bring the SEC gymnastics championship back to New Orleans, which played before record crowds in March in the Smoothie King Center, but no sites have been determined beyond 2020 in Duluth, Georgia.
• The conference is expected to announce a new set of bowl agreements, possibly as early as next week. There has been speculation that the SEC will make a deal with the Las Vegas Bowl, at least on a rotational basis, starting in 2020.
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