It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, as you know I'm a big college football fan. You remember your undergrad days at
Wossamotta U, right? Okay, just kidding but we do share more a few memories of tailgating in
the parking lot before a game only to then go inside the stadium and have to switch to soda
since beer sales weren't permitted. Don't worry, I'm not going to mention all the times you
sneaked in those flasks of gin and vodka. Anyway, times have changed. Now after all the
pre-game partying fans can go inside the campus stadium and just continue drinking. Yes,
many cash-strapped athletic departments outside the major Power Five conferences have
started to use beer sales as an alternative revenue stream -- and more could soon be
The taps are now flowing in concourses that traditionally have been alcohol-free zones.
A friend of mine went to an SMU game last week and told me they're now among 21 on-
campus football stadiums where any fan of legal age can grab a brew. That's more than twice
as many as five years ago. From what I understand most schools continue to keep alcohol
restricted to premium seating areas but that not much of an obstacle for the student body in
general to get their stadium beer.
Now before you go off on how outrageous this all is I have a few things for you to consider.
First, offering alcohol is an effective way for schools look to keep fans from staying at home.
With so many choices for a student on a Saturday afternoon this is one inducement for them to
stay on campus, or at least local.
Secondly, the schools that were among the first to sell alcohol and didn't report an increase in
bad behavior from students and other fans. Now that's saying something.
Not only does selling beer help a college's bottom line it also helps the community. There are
11 municipal stadiums where FBS teams are tenants and alcohol is available to the general
public. The municipality usually keeps most, if not all, of the alcohol proceeds. By the way, the
NCAA does not sell alcohol to the general public at its championship events however schools
and conferences are allowed to make their own policies.
Now I'm guessing you want to know about the schools that won and operate their stadium,
rather than rent from the town. Just call me a mind reader, Bill. Here's your answer. Recently
the Associated Press took a survey of the 21 beer-selling schools that do just that and about
half their total concessions revenue is derived from alcohol. We're talking big money here. All
but four of those schools are in conferences outside the Power Five that don't earn significant
television money, so this revenue stream is essential. At Troy University in Alabama, athletic
director John Hartwell estimated that beer would account for $200,000 in commissions this
season alone. According to its contract with the concessionaire Troy will receive 43 percent of
gross beer sales at its 30,000-seat stadium, or better than $2 for every $5 beer.
There you have it. It seems selling beer at former tea-totaling college football stadiums is a
good idea. It does not produce any unwanted behaviors and makes needed money for the
school. That's a win- win in my book. By the way, what's the policy at your beloved
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next time.
Hey Gina, how do you up with all these topics? Don't worry, I'm on top of this one. I can
straighten you out. Again.
Selling alcohol at college football games might seem counterintuitive at a time when there is so
much concern about binge drinking on campuses. Mothers Against Drunk Driving and other
responsible groups oppose any alcohol in a college environment because most of the students
are under 21. Essentially they argue that kids are watching adults all the time and they should
not see the only way to have fun is to drink a lot. Not a bad argument but not that good either.
For example, West Virginia University began stadium beer sales in 2011 in part to counter a
problem with drunken fans coming and going from tailgate parties during games. It worked.
Campus police reports show that alcohol-related incidents at Mountaineer Field have declined
sharply since beer was available in the stadium. Not only that, but beer sales have produced no
less than $516,000 each of the past three years for the school.
Because you mentioned SMU I did a bit of research on the school. They reported no change in
crowd behavior after alcohol was introduced at basketball games last season, even with huge
gains in attendance (up 64%).
Despite some of these irrefutable statistics, just a handful of college stadiums currently give
students and fans the chance to buy a brew. Most remain opposed to it so it's not sweeping the
country as you seem to imply. The Southeastern Conference and the 23-school California State
University system, for example, have policies banning alcohol from general seating areas.
For most Athletic Directors the bottom line seems to simply be that beer that beer sales will lead
to and/or increase the unruly behavior of the fans. That's hasn't happened yet but there are
easy safeguards that can be used to keep drinking under control. For example, a fan who wants
to drink must obtain and wear a wristband indicating he or she is at least 21. Fans are limited to
buying two beers at a time, and sales are cut off at halftime or in the third quarter. Many places
do just that and it has proven to be most effective.
Gina, we often talk when we saw more than our share of college football games. Think back and
I bet you don't remember any pivotal plays or even the score in most of them, However you
probably recall, with fondness, the overall experience. Beer was a key part of it. And there's
nothing wrong with that.
I also agree that selling beer just might encourage both students and alumni to take in the
game. In this day and age, it's hard to fight the 60-inch high-def TV that has every game on an
ESPN broadcast or on the Internet.
Hey, why don't you join me at the game next week? Wossamotta U's stadium sells beer!! Ha.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.