New University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves ran through a long list of ambitious goals at his first-day press conference Wednesday — strengthening the school's undergraduate education, growing research initiatives and improving the school's relationship with East Austin.
Then, he got to the real news: He said he supports beer sales at Longhorn football games.
He was clear and unequivocal about the idea: “I do support beer sale at the football games,” he said. “They have worked well at the basketball games. They have worked well across the state.”
In fact, he said his predecessor, Bill Powers, has already recommended allowing the sales. Fenves said he then endorsed the idea, and the school is now awaiting final consultation and confirmation from the governing UT System.
It’s not immediately clear how soon beer could be served. The UT System Board of Regents meets twice – in July and August – before football season begins.
UT-Austin first experimented with beer sales at men’s and women’s basketball games in early 2014. It now serves beer at baseball and softball games, too. But the school held off for football last season. Francisco Cigarroa, the chancellor at the time, told the Austin American-Statesman that the issue needed to be studied more.
But Fenves said there haven’t been any problems at the other sporting events. And the fans seem to like it.
“It enhances the fan experience, and makes coming to the Longhorn games more attractive,” he said Wednesday.
He also said the university takes “sophisticated and elaborate” safety precautions, though he didn’t elaborate.
If the change is made, UT-Austin would follow in the steps of several other colleges in Texas. The University of Houston has allowed beer sales at football games for years. The University of North Texas sold more than 20,000 beers at its six home football games last season. Those expensive plastic bottles brought in about $46,000 in profit, the school said. Southern Methodist University in Dallas sold beer and wine at its basketball games in 2014, bringing in $350,000 in revenue, according to The Dallas Morning News. (Profit numbers weren’t released.)
UT-Austin’s former rival, Texas A&M, is one of the few schools not considering selling beer. The Southeastern Conference doesn’t allow it.
Fenves acknowledged that the issue is new for him. Prior to taking over as president, he served as provost. That job involved all areas of campus life – except sports.
But he said he is an avid Longhorn fan and a big supporter of Athletic Director Steve Patterson. He said he recently attended his first Big 12 Conference board meeting, and has been briefed on television rights, conference championship games and other hot-button issues.
“Hopefully, with my lingo, I am getting up to speed,” he said.