By Jimmy Hyams
SANDESTIN, Fla. — After years of debate, the SEC has adopted a policy in which schools may sell alcohol at non-premium seat areas for football, basketball and baseball games, and other sporting events, effective Aug. 1.
The policy was passed but not without debate.
“There was a difference of opinions,’’ Sankey said when asked if the vote was unanimous.
Asked to discuss the pros and cons argued by the schools, Sankey said, “I always protect our conversations.’’
West Virginia has sold alcohol at football games and other sporting events since 2011.
Sankey was asked why it took so long for the SEC to follow suit.
“People wanted to be careful,’’ Sankey said, and “proceed cautiously.’’ He said the “national trend is to be more accepted’’ of the practice and there is a “changing culture.’’
Have alcohol sales at other schools been a success?
“I don’t know,’’ Sankey said, adding he wants to see results at SEC games based on in-game and post-game behavior.
He said a positive outcome of alcohol sales could be the deterrent of binge drinking before games, which has led to some incidents 10-15 minutes after a person’s entry.
While the SEC is giving schools the right to sell alcohol, it also established parameters: In most cases, sales are not allowed after about 75 percent of the event’s regulation has been played.
Asked why the SEC felt the need to incorporate expectations, Sankey said: “Because the conference is stepping away from decades (of a policy) and proceeding carefully.’’
Asked if their might be an official beer of the SEC, Sankey said: “We’re not there yet.’’
Sankey said the move wasn’t made for financial reasons, but he also noted some schools reporting a return of high six figures on alcohol sales while others made in the low five figures.
Sankey, who said he’s never consumed alcohol at a game, said some schools are prepared to sell alcohol at sporting events right away while others might take longer and others might not sell alcohol at all.
At one point during Sankey’s press conference, as jokes were make about alcohol, Sankey turned the mood serious, noting that some have been affected by “reality in life.’’ Perhaps meaning some have experienced alcoholism in their family or with friends.
That would lead some to be a “lot less flippant and a lot more serious’’ about the alcohol issue.
In a statement from UT, UT supports the SEC’s vote, saying “we believe individual universities in the SEC should have the autonomy to make the decisions best for their campuses at is relates to selling alcohol at athletic events.
“UT is evaluating the best course of action for our campus, including reviewing necessary procedures and processes to determine if and when we would initiate the sale of alcoholic beverages at athletic events.’’
The statement also says UT is developing “a policy and infrastructure to responsibly sell alcohol at non-athletic events, such as concerts, in accordance with state law.’’
UT has never sold alcohol at athletic events on campus. Last month, the state legislature cleared the way for UT to sell alcohol on campus at non-sporting events, such as concerts and Monster Jams. UT is expected to be prepared to sell alcohol at non-sporting events this fall and perhaps at basketball games, but it is unlikely to do so at football games.
In other action:
*Sankey said the SEC had 26 fall teams with an APR among the top 10 percent in the NCAA. In 2005, he said, 54 of 260 SEC teams fell below the 930 threshold. The low this past cycle was 947.
*Several bowl agreements will expire and Sankey said an announcement on those agreements will be coming soon, perhaps in June.
*The SEC fielded seven or eight bids – two from the state of Texas – to host the SEC Football Media Days in 2020. The Media Days will be held in Hoover in July, at which time Sankey will announce the 2020 site. Nashville submitted a bid.