Alcohol and College Football
Posted Jun 11, 2011

Is it time to be genuine and recognize the role that beer plays in the college football experience, as well as the benefits that could be realized by selling it? West Virginia University thinks so.

By Mike Vernon
Follow me on Twitter @ m_vernon

Perhaps the greatest fourth quarter comeback in the history of college football took place in Lawrence, Kansas this past season — and hardly a single student was there to see it.

The same scenario (minus the winning part) remained similar for nearly every football game Kansas played this past season. Outside of the first two home games, the stands, particularly the student sections, were half-full, or half empty, at Memorial Stadium.

Which had as much to do with alcohol consumption as sub-par football.

Kansas is by no means alone in this regard; far too many teams face similar issues growing their attendance and keeping it past halftime. Nearly every successful program has at its core a fan base that's passionate and attends every game.

So how do regularly mediocre teams with less than mediocre support change the culture at their school?

They could allow beer to be sold at their football games.

First, before we even start let's just be realistic – drinking and college football games have become synonymous with students and the collegiate experience. And for that matter it's not just college students. At Kansas and schools like it, students regularly leave at halftime to continue their pre-game drinking – often not to return.

Sometimes students choose not to even attend the games, preferring instead to stay outside the stadium so they can continue tailgating (see: drinking). Absolute fact – if you're unaware then you're either over 30 or not paying attention. Or both.

West Virginia, a program that doesn't need to boost its support, has recently made a change to Policy 18, allowing beer to be sold at home games for the Mountaineers. Along with this new plan come a few rules, such as (i) no beer can be sold in the student sections, (ii) an ID is required for each purchase, and (iii) there is a two-beer maximum per purchase.

West Virginia Athletic Director, Oliver Luck, expects the beer sales to generate $500,000 to $1.2 million dollars. Even the WVU Police Chief supports the plan along with Luck, hoping that the controlled beer sales will eliminate alcohol abuse on game days.

For schools not as fortunate in the fan-support department as West Virginia, a similar rule change could do something much more than bring in extra dollars from beer sales —it could get and keep students in their seats.

Some schools already allow beer to be sold in private sections of their stadiums, but bringing it to the concourse would generate a larger enticement for fans to attend. Would it be without it's obstacles – no.

But people are already drinking – before and during games. People like to drink beer while they watch their football, and in cities where universities are trying to build their programs, getting butts in the seats is tantamount. In today's world, big high-definition TV screens give fans an easy excuse to stay home, or at the local bar, and away from the madness that could be a college football game.

As for Kansas and other middle-of-pack programs, allowing beer sales would no-doubt help get students (indeed, all fans) to games. If more students and fans go to games, both the noise level and revenue is sure to increase, which can only help the product on the field.

With West Virginia testing it out, other schools are sure to be watching closely. If the beer sales are considered a success in Morgantown, the Mountaineers may not be alone in allowing beer to be sold at college football games.

Mike Vernon covers the Big 12 for CFN. You can reach him at or on Twitter @m_vernon.

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