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University of Tennessee Martin vs University of Missouri football

Truman the University of Missouri mascot leads the student section in cheers before the start of a football game between the University of Tennessee Martin and the University of Missouri at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, Mo. on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. Photo by David Carson, dcarson@post-dispatch.com

Starting this fall at Memorial Stadium, Mizzou fans might be able to purchase alcohol at Tiger football games.

In the biggest decision to come out of this week’s Southeastern Conference spring meetings in Destin, Fla., the league’s presidents and chancellors voted to grant member schools the autonomy to decide if they want to sell alcohol at their athletics venues effective Aug. 1, provided they follow certain requirements.

For decades the SEC has banned alcohol sales in general seating areas at sporting events, instead only allowing its members to serve alcohol in private suites and premium seating sections, as has been the case at MU’s Memorial Stadium, Mizzou Arena and Taylor Stadium.

Under the SEC’s new policy, each school can designate the locations where alcoholic drinks can be sold, consistent with SEC-approved alcohol management expectations, along with each school’s policies and any state or local regulations. 

Shortly after the SEC approved the new measure Friday, Mizzou released a statement saying it will begin discussing the sale of alcohol at sporting events.

“We appreciate the Southeastern Conference developing a policy that provides us the authority to determine what is best for the University of Missouri regarding the sale of alcohol in public areas within our athletic venues,” MU chancellor Alexander Cartwright and athletics director Jim Sterk said in a joint statement. “Our guiding principle in any decision will be maintaining the safety of our fans, student-athletes and staff while creating an atmosphere that reflects our institutional values.

“We will begin a process with the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee to discuss the potential sale and consumption of alcohol in university facilities in the near future. The IAC is a standing committee of MU that has broad representation from the campus community and includes faculty, staff, students and alumni.”

In other words, Mizzou isn’t ready to tap the kegs at Memorial Stadium just yet, but the process is in the works.

With fledgling ticket sales and shrinking attendance impacting Mizzou’s football revenue figures the last few years, alcohol sales should provide an economic boon to the athletics department, on top of new revenue streams from the soon-to-open south end zone complex at Memorial Stadium that will feature new premium seating areas. The Tigers have seen a drop in average attendance each of the last four years, averaging 51,466 last season, even though the team has improved its record the last two seasons. Mizzou's hardly the only SEC program suffering from attendance issues. Last season's league-wide per-game attendance average of 73,994 was the SEC's lowest since 2002.

“We are proud of the great game-day atmospheres the SEC and our member schools have cultivated throughout our history, and no other conference rivals the SEC in terms of our ability to offer an intense yet family-friendly atmosphere for all of our fans,” said University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides, the chair of the SEC presidents and chancellors. “This policy is intended to enhance the game-day experience at SEC athletics events by providing our schools the autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their respective campuses while also establishing expectations for responsible management of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.”

The SEC adopted the policy changes after a recommendation by a working group of campus leaders that was formed at last year’s spring meetings. Mizzou senior deputy AD Sarah Reesman served on the working group. 

“Our policy governing alcohol sales has been a source of considerable discussion and respectful debate among our member universities in recent years,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “As a conference, we have been observant of trends in the sale and consumption of alcohol at collegiate sporting events and have drawn upon the experiences and insights of our member schools which have responsibly established limited alcohol sales within controlled spaces and premium seating areas. We remain the only conference to set forth league-wide standards for the responsible management of the sale of alcoholic beverages.”

Any sales of alcoholic drinks in public seating areas will be limited to beer and wine and must be poured into a cup. Each school that sells alcohol will be required to implement a server training program for staff. Alcoholic beverages are to be sold only at designated stationary locations and may not be sold by vendors within the seating areas. Identification check will be required at every point of sale to prevent sales to minors. Limits will be enforced for the number of drinks purchased at one time by an individual.

Designated stop times for sale and/or distribution of alcohol must be enforced as follows:

• Football, end of the third quarter

• Basketball, men’s, the second half 12-minute TV timeout; women’s, end of third quarter

• Baseball, end of the top of seventh inning)

• Softball, end of the top of the fifth inning)

• Other Sports will stop serving at a designated time, no later than when 75 percent of the event’s regulation length is scheduled to be completed.

The new management expectations do not include stadium suites, clubs or private leased areas. Also, each school must establish a policy for the admission of outside food and beverage into its facilities. 

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