A few tidbits from this David Ching piece:
- “Truth be told, most SEC programs already allow alcohol in their stadiums, just not for the common folks in the general seating areas.”
- “… 50 college football programs – 36 with on-campus stadiums and another 14 that play off campus – sell beer throughout their stadiums. And even the stodgy NCAA recently removed its restrictions on alcohol sales at championship events, following a pilot program that started with stadium-wide sales at the College World Series for baseball and the Women’s College World Series in softball.”
- “… the SEC remains as the only major conference that refuses to allow its member institutions to formulate their own policies on the matter, and there is some reason to doubt that alcohol sales proponents will be able to muster the necessary majority vote of SEC presidents and chancellors to end the ban.”
David ponders the reasons why. Bible Belt morality is an obvious guess, but perhaps too facile, as most SEC programs allow for alcohol consumption in the luxury booths. “Southern politics and reasonable concerns over fan safety”? Well, let’s not forget we’ve seen more than one state legislature poised to allow guns inside college stadiums, only to be pulled back by SEC displeasure.
Then, there’s this one, which, admittedly, I’ve never thought about.
… there are also economic factors in play.
Some SEC schools are either unwilling or unable to do a cannonball into the booze pool, and that affects their leaders’ opinions on the matter. But for those who are willing, there is often a nifty revenue stream available to tap.
For instance, Texas generated more than $3 million in each of the last two football seasons with alcohol sales, netting $1.3 million of the annual totals after expenses. And that doesn’t even include the approximately $5 million Texas will rake in annually thanks to sponsorships with MillerCoors and Corona.
Ohio State made $1,231,280 in net revenue off alcohol sales last fall, up from $1,166,497 in 2016, its debut season with stadium-wide sales.
The earnings are more modest at smaller programs – Purdue reported $550,000 in gross sales last fall in football and another $241,701 from men’s basketball season, its first school year with stadium-wide sales – but the overriding point is clear: Alcohol can be a big moneymaker, and college athletics programs are rapidly warming to the possibilities.
Profitability may be part of the problem for the SEC’s alcohol-sales proponents, however.
At a school like LSU, where in-state colleges like Louisiana-Lafayette and Tulane already sell alcohol at sporting events, the state’s festive culture and warm weather indicate that beer sales would be a massive success. Athletic director Joe Alleva has long been one of the conference’s most vocal proponents of lifting the conference-wide ban on alcohol sales. The school has already experimented with beer gardens at sporting events and sells alcohol at football games in premium areas like its Skyline Club, Stadium Club and suites.
Beer and wine sales figures from the 2016 College World Series showed 430 drinks sold per 1,000 fans, and it would be reasonable to expect LSU to at least match those numbers. Were that to be the case, LSU would have made approximately $3.4 million in alcohol sales in 2017 from football, men’s basketball and baseball games alone (with 1,137,124 in reported attendance and $7 per drink purchase).
But in a conference where member schools share TV and postseason revenue, some within the league might view alcohol sales as a potentially unfair advantage for the big programs who sell. Obviously the schools who shun alcohol sales would receive no additional revenue, and even if the smaller programs made the attempt, they likely would rake in only a fraction of the money.
Take Vanderbilt, for example. The Commodores reported 489,019 in combined attendance between football, men’s basketball and baseball in 2017 – about 50,000 greater than LSU’s baseball attendance alone. Operating by the same sales assumptions as above, Vandy would have generated approximately $1.5 million in sales in 2017 if alcohol had been on its concessions menu. Kentucky would have generated roughly $2.6 million based upon its 856,346 in reported attendance from the three sports.
While it might seem petty to quibble over a couple million bucks when your school boasts a $100 million athletic budget, this is the SEC we’re talking about. A conference opponent potentially gaining any sort of competitive advantage is sure to bring out the claws. [Emphasis added.]
The SEC, where booze sales just mean more.