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Division III opts to maintain ban on championships beer and wine sales

Beer and wine soon will be poured at some of the NCAA’s largest championships, but the same won’t hold true in Division III’s more intimate settings.

This spring, the Division I Council removed rules restricting the sale of alcohol at the division’s championships after engaging in a pilot program that had allowed alcohol sales in general seating at a handful of major events. Division II decided not to pursue alcohol sales last fall, and Division III engaged in substantive discussions on the topic through the first half of this year.

Through a series of deliberations at key governance meetings this spring, Division III members came to the same conclusion as their counterparts in Division II — the potential drawbacks outweigh any benefits. Division III has committed roughly $600,000 in its Game Day the DIII Way sportsmanship initiative with the Disney Institute, training administrators and coaches at campuses nationwide how to handle unruly or unsportsmanlike fan behavior, which Division III members had cited as a chief concern in recent years. Permitting alcohol sales seemed counterintuitive after that investment of time, training and money. Accordingly, the Division III Championships Committee declined to recommend a beer and wine sales pilot program that mirrored Division I’s.

“While the feedback from the Division I pilot program has shown that spectators are less likely to binge drink before games when they have access to alcohol at venues and there may be a reduction in alcohol-related citations, we believe selling alcohol may be counterproductive to our institutions’ work around student well-being,” says Jennifer Chuks, Championships Committee chair and assistant athletics director at Williams.

The Division III Management Council also broached the topic this spring, and the council agreed with the Championships Committee’s recommendation given the division’s ongoing commitments to both Game Day the DIII Way and 360 Proof, the division’s robust and ongoing alcohol education initiative.

While Division III members have expressed little interest in allowing alcohol sales at stand-alone Division III championships, beer and wine might be permitted at any future joint championships held with Division I. The Championships Committee recommended that alcohol sales be permitted during the Division III portion of joint championship events, provided each division’s event is in the same venue, not merely in the same city. The Division III Management and Presidents Councils will review the recommendation this summer.

The action was sparked by the current format for championships in men’s lacrosse in which all three divisions hold their competitions at the same venue during the same time frame.

A pilot program that allowed alcohol sales at that joint event was conducted in 2017 and 2018. The events did not produce a concerning level of fan misbehavior, and permitting sales during all three divisions’ championships ensured additional costs weren’t incurred to change alcohol-relevant signs and equipment between events.

“Although we remain opposed to alcohol sales at Division III championships, we felt it would be best to collaborate and partner with Division I when in a joint championship setting,” Chuks says. “We focused on reducing operational challenges that would occur as a result of different divisional policies at one venue.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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