DESTIN, Fla. — SEC presidents and chancellors voted Friday to allow their member schools to set their own stadium alcohol sales policies, effective Aug. 1.
“Our institutions will have autonomy in how alcohol is made available under certain conference-wide expectations,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey announced on Friday at the SEC Spring Meetings at the Hilton Sandestin.
“There’s no expectations that anyone make alcohol available beyond clubs and suites.”
Sankey indicated the vote was not unanimous, saying, “there were different opinions in the room.”
Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation on Friday the UGA administration will review its policies and consider options before finalizing any decisions on whether or how alcohol will be distributed in Sanford Stadium.
“We’ll take this information and discuss internally and externally and make decisions,” McGarity said. “There’s obviously a lot more to it.”
Sankey said the alcohol sales conversation at the league-wide level has been ongoing since around 2010. More wheels for change were put in motion for the first-ever vote of its kind in the SEC when the league established a working group to more closely examine the issue in the last year.
Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin indicated the findings were revealing.
“It doesn’t seem like places who have introduced it (alcohol sales) have gone up in flames, so maybe it’s not as deadly as once feared,” Stricklin said. “The motivation that you hear is you might eliminate some other issues because you have a more controlled environment for adult beverages, instead of people binging in the parking lot.”
Previous league-wide SEC bylaws restricted sales of alcohol to private controlled areas, such a skyboxes. Beer could be sold at SEC games, but only in areas designated as premium seating.
The NCAA removed what had been a long-standing ban on selling alcohol at championship events last spring, and more than 50 FBS-level programs currently allow alcohol sales throughout their stadiums.
There has been no indication Georgia will change its current policy, based on comments from UGA president Jere Morehead on Thursday.
“I think we’ve got it right at UGA,” said Morehead, in his seventh year as school president, “so I don’t see us making any significant changes.”
Morehead did say Georgia is open “to review” following Friday’s league vote.
But even if Georgia was to decide to institute a change in its stadium alcohol sales policy, it could take time to implement.
McGarity pointed out that Sanford Stadium is currently not set up for general seating alcohol sales, from a distribution standpoint.
Stricklin said that will be a league-wide issue even for schools that decide to sell in general seating areas.
“We have a lot of legacy stadiums, it’s a nice way of saying ‘old,’ “ Stricklin said, “so it depends on what level your dispensing … If you’re pouring something into a cup versus having a draft, it probably takes a little bit more to have the draft apparatus set up.”
Sankey said he expects “a mix” of decisions among the SEC schools on how they will move forward with the ruling, and there will be league-wide alcohol management expectations.
“We are a conference that’s walking away from decades of prohibiting this activity, and we want to proceed carefully,” Sankey said.
“The hope is it will be an overall positive experience. The fact we are being careful, and there are different opinions, indicates there are appropriate concerns.”
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