DESTIN, Fla. — Presidents of the 14 SEC programs are expected to decide on Friday on whether to retain the league’s current stadium alcohol policy or tweak it to include more options at the respective schools’ venues.
League commissioner Greg Sankey held a lengthy meeting with the schools’ presidents, chancellors and athletic directors on Thursday at the SEC Spring Meetings at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa.
“I would say we had a very harmonious, thoughtful discussion on all aspects of it, and that’s what led to us to thinking we need to think about it and discuss it more,” Auburn president Steven Leath said at the conclusion of the meeting. “It’s still in the process, so to speak.”
The NCAA removed what had been a long-standing ban on selling alcohol at championship events last spring, and at least 55 FBS-level programs currently allow alcohol sales throughout their stadiums, according to a Sports Illustrated report.
Current SEC bylaws restrict sales of alcohol to private controlled areas, such as skyboxes. Beer can be sold at SEC games, but only in areas designated as premium seating.
That’s the case at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium, and UGA President Jere Morehead indicated Thursday afternoon the school’s stance is not likely to change anytime soon.
“We’re still talking about the issue, we’re taking it in,” Morehead told AJC-DawgNation. “But you know, I think we’ve got it right at UGA, so I don’t see us making any significant changes.”
The question is, to what degree will institutions have the freedom to modify their current alcohol policy.
Current SEC legislation requires that for a policy to change it would require a majority vote of the 14 league presidents/chancellors.
There has not been a motion or vote for schools to have the freedom to act autonomously on the alcohol issue in recent SEC history, a league official said Thursday.
That could change on Friday.
LSU athletic director Scott Woodward said it’s fair to say “the feeling of it” is that the majority of league athletic directors would prefer the SEC presidents to vote to allow each institution to set their own policy.
“I think eventually something will happen, you just have to, like everything else, be patient,” Woodward said. “At the end of the day, I think it will be something very positive.”
Sankey addressed the stadium alcohol issue facing the league institutions during his appearance on the SEC Now program on Sirius XM satellite radio on Thursday morning.
“Is some flexibility around the current policy appropriate? Well, our members have to decide that,” Sankey said. “Part of the reluctance is the venue atmosphere if it’s deployed, that being alcohol. It has to be done responsibility, both by those providing and those consuming, and that’s not an insignificant part of the conversation.
“The atmosphere is for families to go and build that experience, to share with three or four generations within a stadium a common experience, that’s a hallmark of who we are.”
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, the SEC’s second-longest tenured AD after completing his ninth year — the past seven with Morehead as the UGA president — said the NCAA’s decision to lift its alcohol ban may have triggered a change in philosophy for some.
“If you open up the ability to purchase beer and wine in public areas at NCAA championships, such as the Final Four, College World Series, and NCAA tennis, that opens up a lot of people’s eyes,” McGarity told DawgNation. “If the NCAA is allowing that, it opens the door for others to consider similar opportunities at their respective campus facilities.”
Georgia is adding a restricted area to its 200 level where high-level donors of the Magill Society will be allowed to purchase and consume alcohol.
“It’s in a certain space on the 200 level that will be cordoned off for a certain classification of the Magill Society, where they will be able to buy beer and wine with certain restrictions, and it has to be consumed in the area,” McGarity said. “The area overlooks East Campus Road, you can’t even see the game from there.
“We don’t expect people to be hanging out there, because there will be limits placed on the amount one can consume.”