Beer and wine will be sold this year in general seating at the College World Series and Women’s College World Series through a one-year pilot program, the Division I Board of Directors decided last week.

This year’s events will mark the first time alcohol will be available to the general public at an NCAA championship. In order to approve the pilot program, the board members waived the rule prohibiting such sales at Division I championships.

Both TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series, and the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium in Oklahoma City, which hosts the Women’s College World Series, were selected because each venue has hosted NCAA championships for some time, and the staffs at those events are familiar with Association policies.

Alcohol sales first were permitted in club seats and premium seats at the College World Series in 2013. Both venues are equipped to sell alcohol and do so at other events. The waiver came with some restrictions: Beer and wine will be sold, but not liquor. Sales will take place at concession stands only, not by roving vendors. Sales will be limited to the final championship sites only, not regionals or super-regionals.

Part of the impetus for the decision came from school reports that indicated once they started selling alcohol at events, alcohol-related incidents declined sharply. Theories suggest that making alcohol available in the stadium prevents incidents of binge drinking before events and discourages people from attempting to bring outside alcohol into the venue.

NCAA staff will work with law enforcement in Omaha and Oklahoma City to monitor alcohol-related incidents at both venues in order to compare this year’s statistics with prior years. That information will be provided to the board members to inform decisions on the future of alcohol sales at championship events.

Paving the way for the board to waive the Division I bylaw, the NCAA Board of Governors – the Association’s highest-ranking governance body – first amended its Association-wide policy barring alcohol sales at championships and set the parameters for the pilot. The Board of Governors noted that the number of schools selling alcohol at events has increased dramatically, with more schools considering the move.

The decision does not impact advertising at NCAA championships, either in-venue or on television. The NCAA has limited alcohol advertising at championship sites and during television broadcasts of championship events.  

The Association will continue its relationships with the TEAM Coalition – Techniques for Effective Alcohol Management. TEAM is an alliance of professional and collegiate sports, entertainment facilities, concessionaires, stadium service providers, the beer industry, broadcasters, governmental traffic safety experts, and others working together to promote responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports and entertainment facilities.

The NCAA also has played a role in the development and provision of programs that address underage and abusive drinking, including the NCAA CHOICES alcohol education grant program, which has awarded more than $7.5 million to support programs at more than 290 member campuses.