Ole Miss Athletics has confirmed the sale of beer in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the final three home football games of the 2019 season, starting October 19 for the game against Texas A&M. Beer will also be sold at The Pavilion at Ole Miss during the 2019-20 men’s and women’s basketball seasons and will continue into baseball season.
The university’s announcement comes in the wake of the Southeastern Conference’s decision earlier this summer allowing member institutions to decide whether to offer alcohol concessions during athletic events, a change in policy that has been in effect since the early 1970s.
“The university has been deliberate in our approach to making this change,” said Ole Miss Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks. “We have assessed the relevant issues and focused on an implementation timetable that works best for our university. Maintaining the safety of our patrons and participants and maintaining an atmosphere suitable for families is of utmost importance. We appreciate the support and patience of our fans as we implement this change.”
“This is another opportunity to enhance what is already one of the premier gamedays in college football,” said interim athletics director Keith Carter. “I want to thank Chancellor Sparks and the rest of our university administration for their leadership and support during this process. We expect this decision to help reduce incidents associated with overconsumption on gamedays. The athletics department will work hand-in-hand with other campus officials and within the guidelines of the SEC to ensure a safe and responsible environment for all fans.”
“We expect in-stadium sales to reduce the temptation for binge drinking during pregame or sneaking in alcoholic beverages,” said Ray Hawkins, chief of the University Police Department. “This sales plan should lead to more responsible consumption and reduce negative behavior in the stands.”
The university’s decision to wait until October 19 was prompted by several considerations, including:
- The need to promote responsible behavior and consumption inside athletics venues,
- The need to assess and fulfill incremental staffing needs,
- The desire to allow time to consider any implications for the campus community and internal policies and processes, and
- The ability to learn from other schools’ experience with in-venue sales during the upcoming football season.
In addition, Ole Miss Athletics will begin with the Texas A&M game to offer limited beer sales before each football game inside the Coca-Cola Rebel Fan Fest on the plaza between Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and The Pavilion at Ole Miss. The Fan Fest area will be cordoned off from the rest of the plaza and will open three hours prior to kickoff and close at kickoff.
In 2016, the NCAA began selling beer and wine at the NCAA Baseball and Softball College World Series. Sales were expanded to the Division I Men’s and Women’s Basketball Championships earlier this year. The College Football Playoff games also offer alcohol sales within the venues that host those contests each year.
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