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How Ole Miss could handle alcohol sale at sporting events

With the Southeastern Conference lifting their ban on alcohol sales at sporting events last Friday, Ole Miss is now free to sell alcohol at all major sporting events if they so choose. Effective August 1, individual schools in the SEC now have autonomy to choose for themselves whether they will sell alcohol.

Under the new regulations, schools will be required to come up with a specific plan on how to sell alcohol, specifically how to limit its distribution to minors, under a certain set of SEC guidelines. Among the noteworthy regulations are that alcoholic beverages cannot be sold by vendors within seating areas, alcohol sales are limited to beer and wine and alcohol must be dispensed into cups.

This presents an obvious question: Will Ole Miss sell alcohol, and if so, how?

Without a permanent athletic director or chancellor, it’s unlikely that the University of Mississippi will make a decision on the subject soon. However, with football season quickly approaching, you would think it’s one of the top items on the agenda when a new chancellor and athletic director are hired.

According to Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellinger, who first reported the news, Ole Miss is one of eight SEC schools considering selling alcohol in 2019. Four schools, including Mississippi State, have already said they will not. Here’s a few ideas on how Ole Miss could handle alcohol sales, if they choose to do so.

1. The ‘beer garden’ approach

This is one of the most widely used methods of alcohol distribution among colleges. At Arizona State University, alcohol has been sold for years. But inside Sun Devil Stadium, alcohol is limited to one specific part of the North end zone.

How this works is simple. A part of the stadium is roped off with security checking IDs at the entrance. At different alcohol vendors within the area, IDs are checked again. Alcohol is only sold in this part of the stadium and must also be consumed within the ropes of the beer garden.

It seems like the easiest and most obvious solution, except there’s on major problem. At Arizona State, you can’t see the field from the roped off area. If this were to be done at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, it would likely be a similar issue.

2. The standard, professional approach

Alcohol at professional ballparks and stadiums are sold just like water, plus an ID check. Some levels of this wouldn’t be allowed under the SEC rules, as they’re banning alcohol sold by vendors in the seating areas, but part of it could still work.

Ole Miss could simply sell alcoholic beverages at every stationary vendor location, alongside food and water. This approach would allow fans to purchase beverages at the vendors and consume them in seats. A school like Colorado opened a beer garden approach in 2014 but just last year began selling this way in the whole stadium.

This idea is relatively common in professional stadiums but presents an obvious issue. It would be very easy for minors to get the alcohol from an of-age person purchasing it for them.

3. The wristband approach

This is more of a conceptual idea that, to my knowledge, has not been implemented. By checking IDs at stadium entrance and providing of-age persons with a certain color wristband could both curb consumption by minors and overserving issues. Vendors could check wristbands and hole-punch them for each drink served. Limiting hole punches to, say, four punches could prevent overserving of fans and having the wristbands makes it harder to buy alcohol for a minor.

4. The ‘Not-at-all’ approach

Four schools in the SEC said they will simply not be serving alcohol in the 2019-20 athletics year. They have the option to change that decision if they choose, and Ole Miss could choose to join that list. Choosing to not serve alcohol theoretically solves the issue of the serving of minors and overserving of disorderly adults.

But here’s the deal – thinking alcohol isn’t already being consumed inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and other Ole Miss venues is simply naïve. It’s already allowed in the outfield of Oxford-University Stadium since the outfield is not on university grounds. If people want to get alcohol into a stadium, they probably already are.

The main reason that Ole Miss will likely choose to sell alcohol at some point, if not in 2019, is easy: money. In 2017, the last time numbers were reported, Texas made over $3-million in revenue from sale of alcohol in football season alone. It’s still up in the air as to if beer and wine will be coming to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in 2019, but the school now has somewhat free reign to do so if they want.