By LARRY VAUGHT
I really thought that Kentucky would opt to sell alcohol at Rupp Arena during the upcoming men’s basketball season. I didn’t think it would happen at Kroger Field this year — but felt it might in the future.
However, Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said Thursday said there would not be alcohol sales at UK sports this year and beyond even though the Southeastern Conference voted to allow alcohol sales at sporting events if a member school chose to do so.
“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.”
Of course, UK has been allowing alcohol sales in premium seating areas. Translation: Those who donate more to UK and spend more for tickets can have access to alcohol while the “average” fan will not have that option.
Barnhart knows many will not agree with UK’s decision.
“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.”
Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Auburn had already opted against general alcohol sales. Texas A&M, LSU and Arkansas will have alcohol sales for all fans.
Barnhart said financial gain was not a reason to justify alcohol sales for collegiate sports.
“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,” Barnhart said.
Everyone will have their own opinion about that. I have friends/fans who were opposed to general alcohol sales. I have friends/fans who are all for it. I have friends/fans who don’t drink at games. I have friends/fans who enjoy alcohol while they tailgate and some who manage to slip alcohol into games.
Bottom line is that UK’s policy is basically a no-change policy. Things are just going to stay the way they are this season and going forward.
“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 Thursday.
“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.”
Many will agree. Some will not. Bottom line, there’s not a clear right or wrong answer. Some will view this as the “haves” can have alcohol and the “have nots” must do without. Others will see it as a wise move based on some alcohol-related events UK football has had to endure.
All I know is that this is one of the few decisions made by UK Athletics that ignored potential financial gains to do what Barnhart and other UK officials felt was best for the majority of fans. We’ll see how that plays out but wouldn’t it be nice to think that’s a trend that might carry over to other UK Athletics decision — even if we know it probably won’t.