Richard Hyatt: Should SEC sell booze inside stadiums?

June 28, 2014 

When you say football, you've said it all.

So despite decisions made elsewhere, schools in the Southeastern Conference aren't seriously considering the sale of beer in the stadiums where fans practice the ancient ritual of college football.

"We see no value in it. It's being done in some places but it is not an option in the SEC," says Greg McGarity, the athletic director at the University of Georgia.

Around two-dozen schools nationwide now sell beer or alcohol at college football games. Southern Methodist University is the latest. Money the Mustangs pocketed in an experiment during the basketball season was just too attractive.

You might think this isn't happening around us because we live in the Bible Belt but McGarity says it's about liability more than theology.

"We have enough liability with 90,000 people in the stadium. We wonder if new revenue would outweigh the increased liability exposure," he says.

No one is blind to how much alcohol is regularly consumed by tailgaters, and fat cat supporters are already being served booze in luxury skyboxes that hang from the rafters in every major venue -- including Sanford Stadium. However, the SEC does not allow alcohol consumption in public areas. Nor does the conference allow it to be advertised.

This fall, Arkansas begins selling beer at concession stands serving 8,950 hog-calling fans in a special club section. Alabama, Auburn and LSU allow premium ticket-holders to brown-bag their own bottles but don't include beer on their stadium menus.

Before changing its policies about alcohol, the SEC would have to consider state laws, campus regulations and the ordinances of local municipalities. There is also the matter of students and mounting concerns about their alcohol consumption.

Money is certainly not an issue down South and if policy changes were made, "it would have to go all the way to our presidents," the Georgia athletic director said.

The SEC maintains a delicate balance on this ageless cultural issue. While it came out against using "The World's Largest Cocktail Party" as a slogan for the annual Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville and doesn't condone booze inside SEC stadiums, it tolerates it in the weekly villages that spring up around every game.

McGarity shares an important observation that should not be overlooked: "If someone can't be without a drink for three hours, they probably have other issues."

-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at hyatt31906@knology.net.

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