By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky has opted against the sale of alcohol at its sporting events this season and beyond.
Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart made the announcement during a press conference Thursday. Earlier this year, the Southeastern Conference voted to allow alcohol sales at sporting events, leaving the decision to each member institution whether or not to allow alcohol sales at its venues.
Barnhart insisted he wanted a “family-friendly” atmosphere at the school’s sporting events. Alcohol sales are allowed in premium seating areas because of the smaller crowd size, which is easier for the university to monitor.
“It is our goal as well as our responsibility to create a safe, secure, positive, engaging environment for fans of all ages, and from all walks of life,” Barnhart said. “We believe we have an outstanding college fan experience at our games.”
Barnhart consulted with Kentucky President Eli Capilouto, campus officials and others before making a final determination on the potential sale of alcohol at school sporting events. Barnhart won’t be making a decision on the matter on a yearly basis and feels comfortable with the choice he made.
“We’re where we are,” he said. “We’ll watch it and see where it goes, but at the end of the day I’m not making a yearly decision on this thing. That’s not what we want to be. … If there’s something that makes good sense to change direction or change our thought process, then we’ll do that. But right now I feel pretty good about where we are.”
Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari said he’s “not a big drinker” but added “it’s the way of the world right now.”
“I’ll roll with whatever (the university) wants to do,” he said earlier this year. “Obviously, we have students in that building who are underage and shouldn’t be drinking. … I’ve been in arenas that are obnoxious. There are teams that we will not play because it was so obnoxious. I’m not putting my team, myself, my staff or my family through that. We’re not going back there and playing. … We have a unique environment.”
Kentucky joins Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina among the list of schools who have opted against alcohol sales at university sporting events. Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M have decided to offer alcohol to its fans and patrons.
Barnhart said the school embraces the collegiate experience and wants to keep it as clean as possible.
“The overarching 55,000 people that are in the stands (for football), we feel like we’ve got an experience that we feel at this point in time a college experience should feel like, and that we feel like gives families an opportunity to enjoy Kentucky athletics,” Barnhart said. “I don’t care what game you go to, you’re gonna get a person where their language isn’t exactly great, or somebody brings something in or something happens outside the gates. It’s not gonna be perfect, but at the end of the day, I think that what we’ve created is a pretty good family environment.”
Barnhart added that schools shouldn’t use alcohol sales as a source of revenue for institutions.
“If that’s our answer, we’ve got a real issue in college athletics,” Barnhart said. “We’ve gotta figure out the right way to do this thing and get the right formula for our budgets and our programs and our teams. Alcohol (is) not the answer for that.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.