Solo Cups

No one likes to watch a losing team. No athletic department likes to see an empty stadium. Many colleges across the country are dealing with the same issue as their athletics are competing against a very large competitor—alcohol.

Game day for the typical undergrad consists of pregame, the tailgate, and continuing the party elsewhere with friends. No game. No pride in collegiate athletics. But really, who can blame them? The only options after tailgating are either to sober up and watch your team or go drink and have fun doing something else. The second choice seems to be a more popular option, at least from what I’ve seen while working college football tailgates.

According to a recent study by the University of Oregon, personal errands, hanging out with friends and family, and drinking were among the competing activities in deciding whether students attended three or more games in a season. Students in the study were asked what they would “most likely” be doing if not attending a football game. 62.3 percent of students said that they would most likely be drinking beer instead of watching the game and 74 percent said they would most likely be watching the game somewhere else. Needless to say, alcohol is a popular competitor to college athletics.

Thirty-four college football stadiums allowed the sale of alcohol to general patrons during games in 2015 according to Selling alcohol at college athletic events has been fairly nonexistent and only available in private boxes or suites until this recent change. Many universities allow tailgates on or near campus prior to games, creating a fun fan-fest environment for students, alumni, and families. Restricting the consumption of alcohol to these tailgating areas but not inside the stadium seems a bit contradictory.

Governing bodies of college athletics like the NCAA appear to be recognizing this growing trend. The NCAA prohibits the sale of alcohol at any championship game; however, in 2016, they have permitted the sale of alcohol to the general public at the College World Series and the Women’s College World Series. The sale of alcohol inside college stadiums appears to be the beginning of a changing environment in college sports and one that will beneficial to collegiate athletics.

Allowing alcohol into the stadiums will:

  1. Cut down on the overindulgence of alcohol before entering the stadium.

It’s a fun party at the tailgate. The game is about to start, yet you still have half of a beer left in your hand. You can’t take the beer with you and you can’t buy a new one once you’ve entered the stadium. The most likely choice becomes consuming the rest of your drink all at once to get inside the stadium or leaving completely to continue drinking elsewhere. For those choosing to enter the stadium, they’re consuming as much alcohol as they can and finishing whatever they have left.

This overindulgence increases the number of people in the stadium who are heavily under the influence and may cause problems for event staff and security. Offering alcohol at the game may not cause such overindulgence before coming into the game due to that option being available. In fact, West Virginia’s campus police reported that alcohol-related incidents at the stadium have declined sharply since alcohol sales started at the games.

  1. Increase revenue

According to ESPN, at West Virginia beer sales have produced around $516,000 each year for the past three years at their football games. Troy University saw a $200,000 increase in revenue from beer sales at their football games, which made a huge impact on their bottom line. The SMU Mustangs also saw an increase in attendance due to alcohol sales and did not report any changes in crowd behavior from security personnel. Selling alcohol at college stadiums is a way to increase revenues without increasing security costs while also increasing attendance for teams that are struggling to get people from the tailgate and to the game.

  1. Put “beer goggles” on the (less than great) team

Losing is the worst. Maybe your college team isn’t Ohio State football or Duke’s basketball program; however, it’s still possible to create a great game-day experience. If you’ve had a good time at the game with your friends while having a drink or two, it makes the loss slightly less devastating because you’ve already enjoyed your time at the game. Perhaps that has nothing to do with the alcohol itself and more to do with the social atmosphere that would be created, similar to a major-league sporting event.

  1. Create a professional sports atmosphere

Which brings me to my next point, bringing alcohol to college sports will create a more professional sports atmosphere. Think about it—at a major-league baseball game there tends to be a sense of camaraderie with complete strangers sitting next to you by the end of the game. You talk about the players, the season, and whether or not that was a good call by the officials. Would people be as willing to open up and talk with each other the same way without a little bit of alcohol?

Alcohol. Like it or not, it’s a popular commodity that has always been a part of the professional sports world. Having shown to increase revenues in college sports as well, the sale of alcohol at college stadiums is a growing trend with many benefits. Every team is different, so alcohol may not be plausible or fix all the attendance and revenue issues for every college team. But if getting the fans from the tailgate to the game is your goal, alcohol is definitely an option that should be considered. FM

(Image: Thai Nguyen/Creative Commons)