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OPINION: SEC approving beer, wine sales at sporting events won't solve attendance issues

Each SEC school has the decision to determine if it will sell alcohol at sporting events starting Aug. 1, 2019.
Credit: Brandon Wade/Invision/AP
Tailgaters join Kingsford Charcoal at the University of Wisconsin vs. Alabama game, leaving their conference rivalries at the door in the name of BBQ Diplomacy during the Kingsford #BBQDiplomacy Tailgate at Tailgate Tavern on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Arlington,Texas.

DESTIN, Fla — The self-described greatest conference in collegiate athletics plans to allow sales of beer and wine at sporting events starting later this year.

Southeastern Conference presidents and chancellors voted Friday to lift the ban on stadium-wide alcohol sales.

Each of the 14 SEC schools has the decision to determine if it will sell beer and wine at sporting events starting Aug. 1, 2019. Sales of hard liquor and mixed drinks will not be allowed in public seating areas.

Click or tap here to see which SEC schools plan to serve alcohol at sporting events.

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said himself at spring meetings alcohol in stadiums won't solve waning attendance at football games.

CBS Sports reported in March college football attendance sank to its lowest mark since 1996. The network reported an average college football attendance last season was 41,856 fans among the 129 FBS programs.

An average of 74,185 fans attended SEC games in 2018, ranked highest amongst any conference. The Big Ten Conference ranked second with an average of 65,365 fans.

Allowing SEC fans to drink beer and wine inside stadiums won't reverse attendance woes. In 2018, FBS college football attendance decreased for the seventh time in eight seasons.

However, the changes are expected to create a new revenue stream for the conference. Perhaps it can make up for lost revenue from fewer fans going through the turnstiles at stadiums.

SEC schools face paying coaches higher salaries than ever to stay competitive.

USA Today data shows SEC boasts five of the 10 highest paid head coaches in college football: Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Georiga’s Kirby Smart and Florida’s Dan Mullen.

Schools also face costs of improving facilities and the possibility of having to pay players in the future.

The potentially high costs of attending a game also factor in for fans, especially when watching their favorite teams has never been easier.

The new rules include a series of SEC-mandated alcohol management procedures, including a restriction that prohibits sales by vendors in seating areas; a limit on the number of alcoholic beverages purchased per customer; and designated times that sales must end during events.

The SEC's decision probably will not curtail the excessive pregaming ahead of games, underage drinking and other unruly behavior that stems from people who have been drinking.

However, some studies say alcohol sales reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents at sporting events because they cut down on the amount of binge drinking before games.

Schools outside the SEC have sold alcohol for years, and the results show an economic benefit. The University of Texas made $5 million from alcohol sales during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, according to several media reports.

The SEC's policy does not impact suites, clubs or privately leased areas in which the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages was previously allowed.

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 and none after the third quarter of women's games.
  • No alcohol will be served after the top of the seventh inning at baseball games and none after the top of the fifth inning at softball games.
  • No alcohol will be served after 75 percent of all other event's regulation length has been completed.

Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Mark Bergin is a journalist with 10News WTSP. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter andInstagram. You can also email him at mbergin@wtsp.com. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri.

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