The NCAA reversed its ban on alcohol at its sanctioned postseason events and talks to start serving beer and wine are already underway.

Mike Pomranz
November 27, 2017

The college hoops season is only just getting started, but if you prefer watching college basketball with a beer in your hand, you may want to start looking ahead to the Final Four… of 2019. Yes, next season’s Final Four is seen as the most lucrative prize after a recent NCAA rule change has opened the way for alcohol to be sold at NCAA championship events – including the association’s highest profile events, the men’s and women’s college basketball championship tournaments known as March Madness.

Late last month, the NCAA’s Board of Governors rescinded its policy banning alcohol sales at NCAA-sanctioned postseason events, instead choosing to let each collegiate division decide on whether to allow alcohol sales individually. Though Division II and Division III, the leagues which encompass smaller schools, have not shown any immediate interest in allowing the sale of beer and wine, Division I, where the biggest names in collegiate athletics compete, reportedly jumped on the opportunity. Though Crain’s Detroit Business said it’s unclear whether beer and wine sales could be approved in time for this year’s March Madness tournament, the publication cited the Indianapolis Business Journal which reported that sports marketers believe that the beverages will almost certainly be available for the Final Four in 2019, with another source saying that preliminary talks are already underway to serve beer and wine throughout every round of both the men’s and the women’s hoops tournaments.

Meanwhile, basketball is only the largest NCAA-sanctioned event. Apparently, alcohol sales could feasibly be allowed during any NCAA postseason event that already provides the facilities for dispensing beer and wine. That means lacrosse, wrestling, volleyball and ice hockey could all likely see alcohol sales by next year according to these reports. The decision comes after a pilot program testing beer and wine sales at postseason events last year proved successful.

Additionally, though the NCAA’s decision only affects the events it runs, a number of major schools have also been moving forward selling beer and wine on their own. “Several of our Division I member schools are selling alcohol at their campus-sponsored, regular-season events,” Eric Kaler, president at the University of Minnesota and chairman of the Division I Board of Directors, told the Indianapolis Business Journal. “Moving toward alcohol sales at championships only makes sense from both a fan experience and safety perspective.”

After decades of schools distancing themselves from alcohol, a sea change has definitely been underway in the past few years when it comes to colleges, alcohol and sports. As we wrote about in September, a surprising number of colleges have even gotten their own officially-licensed beers in recent seasons, typically displaying things like the college’s nickname, colors or mascot. Now, if one of these teams makes it all the way to the postseason, who knows, you might even be able to toast the team’s beer while watching them compete for an NCAA title?

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