Booze it or Lose it: Should Alcohol be Served at College Sporting Events?

This past week, my alma mater, Indiana University, made an interesting announcement. They publicized that starting this fall, IU will sell beer and wine at home football games. It is part of a pilot program and a third-party will be selected to provide the alcohol. IU will join over 50 other schools nationally and will become the sixth Big Ten (B1G) school to serve at football games. Not surprisingly, there will be rules coinciding with the approved sales, including no sales after the third quarter and not allowing more than two beverages to be purchased in one transaction. 

So, basically none of this: 

This decision came as a surprise to me. The entire state of Indiana did not even allow the sale of any booze on Sundays until a little over a year ago; all liquor stores were closed on Sunday.

As a controversial topic, this seemed like a good time to address the bigger picture: should any alcohol be served at collegiate sporting events?

Side 1: Yes, booze and sports are synonymous

This debate comes down to an idea that has been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years: alcohol and sports go great together. It’s the perfect marriage. This debate is encompassing all sports but let’s be honest, nothing beats watching some NCAA/NFL football with some friends and some brews. Whether you are live at the event, at a bar or restaurant with friends or family, or chilling on the couch from the comfort of your own home, it’s fun and relaxing to kick back a few cold ones while watching the big game.

So why shouldn’t you be able to do this at collegiate sporting events? As long as all basic rules are followed (only age 21+, limited quantity, stopping sales well in advance of the end of the game), you should be able to enjoy a couple drinks while at the game. 

Let’s start with the obvious. Alcohol sales will provide substantial revenue for schools. If beer is at a college football game, people are going to buy it. The additional revenue is beneficial all around and could maybe even lead to lower ticket prices overall. On a side note, I applaud IU (I am sure most other schools are doing this or something similar to this too) for committing 10% of these revenues to the university’s alcohol safety programming. 

Another reason for allowing this is because it may actually curb the obvious problem with allowing alcohol sales: drunk fans. The main opposition with allowing this is that fans will get too wild, drunk or annoying. IU athletic director Fred Glass said that the goal of selling booze inside is to actually reduce alcohol-related incidents both in and around the stadium. As someone who attended almost every single home football game for all four years at IU, I actually agree with this logic. Almost every Saturday, I saw people get absolutely tanked before kickoff knowing that they could not have any more beverages for the remainder of the game. I think that if people know that they can buy a couple drinks upon entry into the stadium, it will prevent people from getting belligerent at the tailgate and then causing issues on the way into the stadium or early in the game. 

Furthermore, IU, among other schools, has always had an issue with fans not sticking around after halftime of their football games, even if the game is close on the scoreboard. Glass said he and the athletic department took their time analyzing over 50 other schools that have done this. Their study found that attendance consistently and significantly went up once alcohol sales were allowed. I would certainly expect this to be the case at IU and other schools who implement this down the road. This would also seem to increase attendance in all sporting events, not just football. The increased revenue, attendance and enjoyable game experience seems like enough to make booze sales legal at collegiate sporting events. 

Side 2: No, keep the booze sales away from collegiate events

There are several reasons that can be argued as to why alcohol sales should not be allowed at collegiate events. Almost all collegiate sporting events still do not serve, so there are certainly reasons for that. The first obvious reason is crowd control in general. Alcohol causes people to act up, it’s just that simple. While serving in the stadium may decrease binge drinking at tailgates, there is another side to that. There are certainly still a handful of people who will drink excessively before the game and then continue to drink at the game. That’s the problem with allowing serving: it only takes a couple of people to cause a real problem. 99.9% of people drinking in the stadium could be acting perfectly fine, but it still only takes a couple of jerkoffs to cause issues. 

There is also a liability issue. Without getting into the legal side, of which I am not fully familiar with, there is still one major concern. If you do not serve at events, then there is no liability because any drinking or disruptive activities occur before the game and outside of the stadium. However, there is liability if you have someone enter the stadium fairly drunk and then you keep serving them until they start causing issues. 

I think we have all had experiences of being disrupted during a great game because the drunken person next to you was too loud or annoying. It ruins everyone’s experience and takes away from the action on the field or court.

Another issue is the increased cost of security and crowd control. Undoubtedly, there will need to be increased protection and control at sporting events if alcohol is being served (this applies less to football and more to other sports that don’t attract crowds that are as big). I mentioned above how increased revenues may be able to eventually lower ticket prices to sporting events. However, increased security will offset some of those revenues. Additionally, large universities are not exactly hurting for money and it’s unlikely the common fan would see any benefit from the increased revenue anyways. 

Going along with liability, another issue is older people buying for students and people under 21. Let’s face it, we all know tailgates will feature excessive underage drinking. But again, that’s not a liability issue for a university because they do not cause that. However, if you have underage people enter the stadium and start slamming drinks to the point that they become disruptive or get sick, now you’ve got a serious problem.

People are going to drink before or after sporting events regardless. In terms of allowing alcohol sales, you can argue that the risks outweigh the benefits and the liability issues are simply not worth changing the status quo. People will always have a great time at collegiate sporting events, with or without booze. So, why change the status quo that’s working?

My Take

This is honestly a tough one to side with. There are certainly pros and cons both ways and many other issues, good or bad, that I did not touch on. It seems to be a trend that more universities are trying this out. I like the idea of testing it with one or two sports in a pilot program and then carefully analyzing the results to determine if widespread implementation would be wise. I will be very curious to see how this works out for IU football and other schools who start to consider serving. 

For now, after personal research, the benefits seem to be pointing towards a positive direction. With that said, I would say I am in favor of at least trying this out at more schools and different sporting events. The only main opposition seems to be rowdy fans and liability issues. As with everything, it’s about being responsible. I don’t think the majority of fans shouldn’t be able to enjoy a couple beers at a game simply due to the few outliers that will go crazy and cause a scene. If security is heightened and responsible drinking is stressed as the utmost importance, I think serving alcohol at sporting events can be successful all around moving forward.

What do YOU think? Are there any major points or issues that I am missing above? Do you think you should be able to drink at college sporting events? Sound off below!

NBA expert and IU grad. '96 Bulls > Warriors. #FireGarPax

Twitter: @realdmill