Our Take

Time Running out on Booze Bans at College Games

Bryan Dent
Written by Bryan Dent

I bring shocking news: College students like to drink. They especially like to drink while rooting on their teams at sporting events. Thankfully, more and more schools are permitting their students and fans to drink openly at games — and reaping the financial windfall that booze sales always bring to any event.

The University of Maryland is just the latest school to consider to consider going wet at Terps football games. Arkansas State took up the issue a few weeks ago. Right now about 20% of schools sell beer and wine to fans in the stands, and the percentage is growing.

The NCAA, that living monument to dishonesty and hypocrisy, bars booze sales at “championship events” that it oversees — no drinking at the Final Four — but at lesser events leaves the decision to the conference, school and venue. Most colleges limit sales to the luxury boxes where the big-money boosters sit. Some, like the California State University system and the Southeastern Conference, remain adamantly dry. Traditionally schools situated on big urban campuses or that share a venue with a pro team have been among the minority that allowed alcohol. But last year 20 college football stadiums went wet, among them the rural University of West Virginia. Now perhaps ASU and Maryland will follow suit.

The obvious reason is money. When Southern Methodist (!) University went wet last year, the school realized a “six-figure windfall over the course of just 12 games” during basketball season. It’s no secret that basketball and football carry the freight for the swimmers, wrestlers, lacrosse players, and all the rest. That money has to come from somewhere.

Besides, the fans are going to drink anyway:

In what is an admittedly futile effort to keep beer and liquor out of stadiums, colleges are investing heavily in security. At its eight home football games last season, Ohio State spent nearly $1 million for police. “If they have to cut off a leg and hollow it out to get the alcohol in,” former Ohio State police chief Ron Michalec said, “they will do it.”

In fact, if the objection to selling booze is fear of drunken hordes swarming the stadium (as if that isn’t happening already), it seems better to let them drink openly inside than load up pre-game:

Some officials believe that alcohol availability inside the venue will reduce the incidence of binge drinking at pregame and halftime tailgate parties and surrounding bars and restaurants. As the logic goes, if people know they can drink during the game, they won’t feel the need to load up on booze before the event gets underway – or attempt to smuggle hard liquor into the venue.

Permitting alcohol sales to 21-year-old adults should not be a controversial issue. It’s good to see college administrators finally waking up to that reality.




About the author

Bryan Dent

Bryan Dent

Leave a Comment