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Gamecock fans might be able to purchase beer at South Carolina games in the near future after the SEC lifts ban on alcohol sales. Stephen Massar/Special to The Post and Courier

South Carolina has three afternoon football games to start its schedule. A tall, frosty beer would surely help battle the “Famously Hot” atmosphere of September in Columbia.

The SEC said Friday that could be allowed.

During its spring meetings in Destin, Fla., the conference decided to lift its long-standing ban on alcohol sales in all areas of its arenas. A topic that has been debated for years but gained traction recently as a way to increase the gameday experience and bolster attendance, the decision has given each of the SEC’s 14 member institutions the ball in deciding whether or not to take advantage of alcohol sales.

Will South Carolina allow it to happen?

Maybe.

"The public sale of alcohol in SEC venues has been a discussion item for several years and there had never been enough momentum to change the policy until this year,” USC athletics director Ray Tanner said in a statement. “While we have discussed this inside the athletics department, now that the ban has been rescinded, we need to vet the impact for us with our campus leadership, including the President and the Board of Trustees, as well as campus, local and state agencies. We value the customer experience in all of our athletic venues and will not do anything to negatively impact that."

USC had the option to allow beer sales when it hosted an NCAA basketball regional at Colonial Life Arena in March. But the school declined, citing several reasons.

Due to the SEC’s now-rescinded rule, USC never sold beer at any sporting event, although CLA does sell beer and wine during concerts and other non-USC events. The school didn’t want to disrupt its normal gameday operations for the regional, and noted alcohol sales did not guarantee a profit.

Selling beer means more money but also more labor, security and concessions costs. And in the regional’s case, selling beer would have allowed the NCAA to take one more dollar per ticket and possibly cut into USC’s $300,000 profit it made off the regional.

USC will study the topic and see how feasible it is to work within the SEC’s restrictions while having points of sale in its arenas. It’s a decision all of the schools will undergo, although Auburn has already said it will stick with its current plan of not selling beer in general areas.

"We are proud of the great gameday 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 outgoing USC President Harris Pastides, current chair of the SEC Presidents and Chancellors, in a statement. "This policy is intended to enhance the gameday 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 vote wasn’t unanimous. Supporters say the money  earned from alcohol sales can be reinvested into the gameday and student-athlete experiences.

The cons are numerous. It only takes one patron to be over-served and get involved in an accident that could make the school liable.

"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 in a statement. "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."

 

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.

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