Southeastern Conference chancellors and school presidents on Friday approved revised rules that will allow member institutions to sell alcohol throughout public seating areas at athletic events, if they so choose.
The vote, which wasn't unanimous, came 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, according to an Associated Press report carried by WUKY, the flagship National Public Radio station in Lexington, Ky.
The SEC's 14 schools were previously prohibited from selling alcohol in public areas at venues, a stance that reflected the South's conservative ways.
"Schools will have autonomy," SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. "This now is an opportunity for institutions to make responsible and appropriate decisions. ... There are different opinions in the room. Some [schools] I expect won't [sell alcoholic beverages] at all."
Most SEC members have reacted by saying they are taking the matter into consideration. Only two schools — Alabama and Auburn — have so far stated outright that they do not intend to change their current policies regarding alcohol sales, according to WBIR, the NBC affiliate in Knoxville, Tenn.
A statement released by Kentucky president Eli Capilouto is indicative of the stance taken by several SEC peers in the immediate aftermath of the rule change. It reads, "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. Led by Director 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 policy takes effect Aug. 1 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 or after the third quarter of women's games.
— No alcohol will be served after the top of the seventh inning at baseball games or after the top of the fifth inning at softball games.
— No alcohol will be served after 75 percent of all other events' regulation length has been completed.