In the summer of 2019, the University of Southern Mississippi decided to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages at football games and other sporting events.
To be clear: Only beer and wine are being served to people under the auspices of the USM banner, at the university’s games. Liquor is a different issue altogether.
The sales began on Sept. 28, at the second home game (football game, anyway) at USM in 2019, “so we had it for four home games this season,” said Jeremy McClain, Athletics Director at USM since May 2019.
McClain, who has a long relationship with the university, said that “more and more institutions of higher education” are serving alcoholic beverages – limited to beer and wine, not liquor drinks, typically – at university sports events.
Every year, more universities are signing on.
“It’s an idea that’s been growing, moving in this direction for several years,” McClain said, but the sale of beer and wine at games is certainly “not the norm, yet.”
When USM’s teams travel, some of the other schools they play in various sports have adopted similar sales, but not all have done so, he added – noting that over the past four or five years, the concept of selling beer and wine at university-level games has grown significantly, and in the past two years it’s grown even more rapidly.
Alcohol has been served at USM events in the past, but not on such a large scale, and not specifically as a revenue source.
In the four home games where beer was sold this year, the sales “brought in close to six figures [around $100,000], which we split with our food service provider,” McClain said.
Next year there are six home games on the schedule, “and we plan to have beer sales at all of those home games,” he added.
For those who like ball-sports, but not football specifically, the university is also setting up beer and wine sales at Reed Green Coliseum, for basketball games, and will probably sell beer at baseball games this year, as well.
The sale is handled by the university’s concessionaire, Aramark. That company is responsible for training, licensing, and all of the other technicalities that surround the sale of any alcoholic beverage.
In a full fiscal year, including football, basketball, and baseball seasons, McClain said he expects the university’s Athletics Department to “have an additional six figures in our bottom line, even after it’s split with Aramark.”
McClain said there was no increase in alcohol-related incidents at USM football games this year, despite the in-game sales.
“Really, everybody did a great job,” he said. “Everybody from security, to campus police, to Aramark’s employees. The transition went very smoothly.”