The NCAA Doesn’t Sell Alcohol to the General Public at its Basketball Championships. Seven members of a bachelor party slumped on the couches of an Indianapolis hotel lobby last Sunday, nursing cans of amber ale before they headed to the NCAA men’s basketball regional final between Kentucky and Michigan. Two days earlier, the men had arrived for a day of semifinal games at Lucas Oil Stadium to a sobering sight: “The beer taps were all removed,” said a member of the party. “We were like, ‘Aww.We’re screwed.’ ” A bachelor party in Indianapolis last weekend, which also visited the home of ‘Garfield’ creator Jim Davis, was surprised to learn at the NCAA basketball tournament’s Midwest regional games that the NCAA prohibits the sale of alcohol to the general public. Clockwise from bottom left: Dan Kador, Robert Newton, Bill Conroy, Ryan Spraetz, Nate Walsh, Kevin Wombacher and Kyle Wild. Courtesy of Dan Kador The men’s basketball Final Four that begins Saturday in Arlington, Texas, is the culmination of the highly popular tournament run by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, with an anticipated TV audience of millions and a sellout of AT&T Stadium.But thousands of fans who attend the games will be forced to swallow a policy that is nearly unique among major American sporting events: The NCAA doesn’t sell alcohol to the general public at its championships. The NCAA is so serious about the ban that host sites are even required to cover up any existing ads for alcoholic drinks. The no-booze rule, in place during all rounds of the tournament, endures even as more colleges and universities, such as Texas, have begun selling beer at athletic events. An NCAA spokeswoman said the association’s overall goal is to maintain “an environment that promotes healthy choices about alcohol.” Flask While fans in suites and other restricted areas are exceptions to the policy, most people at the Final Four will have to sweat it out all evening. Saturday’s two semifinal games can last a total of six hours including a 40-minute intermission-making it one of the longest major dry sporting events. AT&T Stadium, home of pro football’s Dallas Cowboys, seats 77,122 for the Final Four. Longtime basketball fan Jim Dillon, 47 years old, said it is “ridiculous” that fans can’t buy alcohol. “What’s the point of the rule? Because it’s a student-attended event? It’s not as corporate as the Super Bowl, but it’s getting there. Ticket packages, brokers, private jets. It is big-time.” The average face-value ticket price for all three games of the Final Four has nearly doubled in 10 years, from $140 to $279. On ticket-resale sites this week, three-game tickets were selling for an average of more than $1,000, according to ticket-resale aggregator TiqIQ. Mr. Dillon says he has sneaked alcohol into three-quarters of the 22 Final Fours he has attended with “Maguire University.” The fictitious school, invented by buddies trying to get tickets, has evolved into a drinking club that makes an annual pilgrimage to the Final Four. Another Maguire U affiliate, Art Duffy, said that the easiest method of sneaking in alcohol is to use a plastic flask so as not to set off metal detectors and fill it with rum or whiskey, which mix well with stadium sodas. Mr. Duffy said it is best to arrive close to tipoff when security officials are tired and ticket holders are impatient to get inside. He said he has brought in alcohol five or six times and has never been caught. The Final Four rotates among various cities around the country, and weather that calls for light clothing can create challenges for would-be booze mules. It was a 70-degree day in St. Louis when the Final Four was held there in 2005, recalled Greg Shaheen, an executive who ran the NCAA tournament from 2001-2012. That made the fan approaching the stadium in a bulging coat look suspicious. Sure enough, security guards found several beer cans stuffed inside the sleeves. “His argument was, could we just let him drink them there?” Mr. Shaheen recalled. They couldn’t. The man left with the beer. Another warm-weather city, San Antonio, brought out the party spirit in patrons of the 2004 Final Four. Six of them were surprised at the door by the no-alcohol policy but thought that, surely, the NCAA would allow only them to bring in some beer if they pledged not to tell anyone. Mr. Shaheen says they even offered to share it with him. This year, the Final Four teams include two-Wisconsin and Florida-that made the top 10 of the Princeton Review’s latest list of “party schools.” A Wisconsin spokesman declined to comment and a Florida spokesman called the list “an unscientific survey that we don’t take a lot of stock in.” Major-college football’s championship game does offer beer sales to the public. Owing to various historical quirks, that game is operated by a consortium of conferences rather than the NCAA. Clemson University in South Carolina doesn’t sell alcoholic beverages to the general public at games, athletic director Dan Radakovich said, but the Final Four is so high-profile that many fans expect them. “If you’re going to charge a lot of money and they can’t, for example, buy a beer at these marquee events, that could become a problem somewhere down the road,” said Mr. Radakovich. “I think that’s a factor that the people who are in charge of these events need to take a very objective look at.” An NCAA spokeswoman said any change to the policy, in place for 40 years, must come from the association’s executive committee. The issue hasn’t come up recently, said committee member E. Joseph Savoie, president of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. AT&T Stadium hosted last season’s NCAA tournament South regional games, a kind of warm-up for this weekend’s championship. Cody White, manager at Spec’s Liquors in Dalworthington Gardens, Texas, near this year’s Final Four site, said “we do see people buy flasks or mini-bottles to sneak in the games.” The best-selling flask is plastic and holds 16 ounces, he said. Kevin Wombacher, the groom in the Indianapolis bachelor party last weekend, discussed the NCAA policy with students in an undergraduate composition class he is teaching as part of his Ph.D. program in health communications at the University of Kentucky. “They said, ‘How’d you have a bachelor party without drinking at the game?’ ” Mr. Wombacher recalled. “I said, ‘You can always go out before or after the game. It’s not the end of the world.’ “

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