It’s a fact of life, where there are sports, there is beer. Speaking personally, there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s particularly true for College Football and we are kidding ourselves if we think otherwise. The tailgate was designed for College Football Saturdays, but the school isn’t seeing any revenue from that time honored tradition of fall. That has already begun to change and will continue to do so.
Forever, major Colleges and Universities stuck their head in the sand when it comes to beer on campus on Saturday afternoons. Not just beer but alcohol in general. The University of Tennessee fashions itself as a “dry campus”. Okay. I’ll take your word for that. But, if you go to any frat house during the week much less the weekend you’ll find a campus clearly off the wagon. This is after all the school that gave us the now famous term “butt chugging”. A few years ago, a pledge to one of UT’s fraternities decided he’d shown his manhood to his fellow brothers by allowing them to give him cheap boxed wine through a hose stuck up his ass. The results were predictable. The kid nearly died from using his rump as something other than an exit, the frat was suspended from campus and the term “butt chugger” was added to the vocabulary. I sure as hell hope that kid transferred.
In a trend setting move, in 2011 West Virginia University became one of the first – if not the first – Power 5 school to allow beer sales at home football games. This move was championed by then Athletic Director Oliver Luck, who while completely bungling the Bill Stewart dismissal, did get this one right. Rather than ignore the fact that alcohol is rampant around the stadium on Saturdays, Luck embraced it as a chance to temper the wildness that marks a WVU home football game. If you’ve ever been the Mountaineer Field for a home game, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a drunk fest. I’ve told many people you’ll be hard pressed to find a town more fun on a home game Saturday than Morgantown, West Virginia, and nothing is a fun as a night game where the blue and gold clad have had all day to get good and oiled up.
The school did put some restrictions on beer sales however. No one under 21-years of age. There were no sales allowed near the student section. Like that matters. Just ask the poor Miami assistant coach who got belted with a trash can thrown out of the student section in 1996. There were no beer sales allowed in seating areas and sales were cut off in mid-third quarter. When beer came to home games, there was also no allowing fans to go out at halftime and come back in for the second half. The halftime tailgate was a long standing staple of WVU football.
The only issue I had was Luck’s less than honest reasoning for beer sales at home games. He was quoted as saying that it would create a safer, friendlier and more civil game day experience. He also said the school would have no tolerance for out of control fan behavior. Luck played at WVU and was the athletic director there but he’s obviously never spent time in the stands at the games. It’s one of the most un-civil environments I’ve ever been around. Heaven help you if you show up in “Almost Heaven” with the opposing school’s colors and it’s a place where a local television guy just doing his job on the sidelines can routinely be told that he sucks. Like he didn’t know that to begin with. In all fairness, the incivility is limited a small but loud, intoxicated group of assholes, but I did witness something I’ve never seen at any other college football game. When WVU lost to Miami 10-7 in 1996 on a blocked punt in the final minute of the game, the WVU players were obviously distraught. One fan yelled at wide receiver David Saunders that he was a “bitch.” Saunders was a kid playing a kid’s game and not getting paid, and that ticket that guy paid for didn’t include a license to be an asshole. Coaches are fare game, kids are not.
No the reason WVU went to beer sales at home games is simple…..MONEY, MONEY, MONEY. Last year, the school netted about $600,000.00 to its athletic budget from the consumption of adult beverages. There are games where the best way to digest WVU football is completely drunk.
The trend which began at WVU is now catching fire nationwide. At least 34 schools have allowed on campus alcohol sales at their home games, including West Virginia’s in-state neighbor Marshall. Some of those schools like Temple, South Florida, Miami and San Diego State share (or did share) stadiums with NFL teams so clearly there are alcohol sales there, but those schools reportedly net very little from the sale of beer at home games.
Schools are now realizing that whether they sell it or not, there is going to be alcohol on campus and in the stadium on Saturdays so you’d might as well use it as a source of revenue. Only three ACC schools allow alcohol sales, the aforementioned Miami, along with Syracuse and Louisville. The Mid American Conference is bullish on alcohol. Kent State, Bowling Green, Akron and Toledo all allow it. The American Conference has beer sales at Cincinnati, South Florida, Memphis, SMU, Tulsa, and Connecticut. In Colorado, Colorado State has beer sales, but Colorado does not. No beer sales at Oregon, Oregon State, Washington or Washington State, but for god’s sake you can legally buy marijuana in those states. The moral is we don’t care if you show up baked, just don’t get drunk.
Maryland is one of two Big 10 schools (with Minnesota) to sell beer. The Sunbelt has several schools that sell beer including Georgia State which until this year shared the Georgia Dome with the Atlanta Falcons. The school has now purchased Turner Field from the City of Atlanta after the Braves left town so it’s unclear if they will continue serving up Buds a the new location, but my guess is that they will. Alcohol is a necessity to watch UNLV play and it’s Vegas so naturally you can drink there and U-Mass is so bad that I’m certain if they didn’t serve alcohol at home games, they’d play in an empty stadium.
Curiously, the Southeastern Conference doesn’t allow its schools to sell alcohol at home games. That’s odd since I’ve never seen more drunks than I’ve seen at an SEC Game. Give some damn Georgia fan some alcohol and get 3 1/2 hours of him barking like an idiot.
The SEC will soon learn as are others that it’s only a question of when, not if, every school allows alcohol sales at games. The NCAA is about to mandate that a scholarship be redefined to include the cost of attendance and that’s going to add a financial burden on schools to meet those costs. Alcohol sales is a perfect avenue for generating more income. Virginia Tech currently allows alcohol only to be served in private boxes. However, Tech’s nerd A.D. Whit Babcock is all about raising money and there’s no question that if he can make money from it, beer is about to flow inside Lane Stadium in the near future. Makes more sense that trying to get people to join the “Hokie Club” something Babcock is certain to mention each time he talks.
The perfect example of adding to the bottom line is Texas. Last year, the school made $1.8 million dollars off beer sales at home games and just a couple of months ago Texas struck a deal with Corona Light to be the official beer of Texas Longhorn Sports. Tulane has its own branded beer at home games made by Louisiana craft beer maker NOLA brewing. That’s freaking Tulane folks which isn’t about to be confused with a college football powerhouse.
The number one rule in business, is if you have a market for your product, you can make money from those consumers. Well, College Football has the consumers right outside of the stadium and if there are going to be obnoxious drunks inside the stadium, you’d might as well turn it into revenue. In other words, let’s make Saturdays great again.