For many years, selling beer at college football games was taboo and considered bad for business. Supporters of beer bans thought selling beer was synonymous with promoting drinking to a young audience.
But according to a survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost 60% of college students drank alcohol in the past month. Nearly 2 out of 3 engaged in binge drinking during the same timeframe. So, clearly, people were overlooking the idea that college students are already drinking alcohol. And thus, the has the 2016-2017 college football season seen a record number of 40 schools selling beer or alcohol.
It seems the NCAA adopted Drake’s lyrical philosophy: Business is business, its strictly financial.
The team over at footballscoop.com compiled this handy map illustrating the college stadiums at which beer is now being sold.
For years, the NCAA has hidden behind the veil of amateurism. Although they are not monetarily compensated, student-athletes are said to receive an invaluable educational opportunity and a showcase for their abilities. Therefore, it is implied that there is a distinguishable difference between the collegiate and professional game. In theory, a college football game is nothing more than a glorified school-sanctioned extracurricular activity open to the community.
When asked, MADD President Colleen Sheehey-Church had this to say: “We want to prevent underage drinking. MADD discourages the service of alcohol at a college game-day event. We absolutely know the minimum drinking age is 21 and most of the people there are going to be under 21.” Their stance is clear, yet with all the inherent risk the NCAA still went forward with the process.
According to CBS Sports reporter Jon Solomon, home attendance at major college football games declined for the fifth consecutive year. Many factors have contributed to this decline. For example, some experts believe the rise of High Definition TV and other streaming options have played a part. With easy access to quality football games, many fans are opting to bring the game day experience home or to their local bars. Some Power 5 conference schools have been able to adjust to the financial loss caused by decreased attendance with apparel licensing and TV contracts that help mitigate the damage. But most institutions have been left scrambling for other options to replace the revenue. This opened the door for increased conversations about the sale of beer at stadiums which had previously been closed to the idea.
MADD and countless other detractors warned against the dangers of allowing beer sales at collegiate events. They argued binge drinking, disorderly conduct, drunk driving, and even sexual assaults would increase if this process was allowed. Their warnings were enough to keep most colleges at bay for years. Then the money dried up.
In 2015, the University of West Virginia reportedly made $600,000 from beer and wine sales during the football season. Remarkably, West Virginia campus police have also reported a sizeable decrease in “alcohol related incidents” during the games. How could this be? It seems as if allowing beer and alcohol sales at the game cut down the need for binge drinking during tailgates. Many say there is no incentive to rush and get drunk before the game if one can still buy alcohol inside the stadium.
But regardless of these concerns, one thing is most certainly clear: Once there was evidence of increased revenue, more colleges began to add beer to the stadiums’ concessions menus.
Texas raked in 1.8 million in beer sales. For a school that big, 1.8 million is not a sizeable amount of revenue in proportion to their total budget. For a smaller college, the revenue potential is astounding.
That money has quickly shifted the attitudes of even the staunchest opponents of beer sales. Wyoming Athletic Director Tom Burman told the Star Tribune in 2014 that he didn’t see beer sales as an option for Wyoming, and that no discussions were being had. Fast forward to 2016, and budget cuts to the department have changed his tone. Even though fans of the Wyoming football team often travel long distances to see the only college football team in the state, Wyoming will now consider beer sales as an additional revenue stream.
Studies have shown no statistical link between beer sales at college football games and crime, but it would be naive to think selling alcohol doesn’t send mixed messages to underage students. In some ways, allowing beer sales at games does promote drinking. However, the motivation behind bringing beer to college football has nothing to do with safety; it has everything to do with the bottom line. NCAA football is a business driven by profit. Like it or not, this race to increase profits is the only way to truly stay competitive.
The NCAA will implement safeguards for student safety, but don’t expect them to abandon an additional revenue stream because of the potential risk. At the end of the day, the liability lies with the individual.
Don’t take it personal. Business is business, it’s strictly financial.