The knee-jerk reaction to hearing that WVU’s Milan Pulskar Stadium is selling beer and wine at games might be a Helen Lovejoy-esque “Will somebody please think about the children?” Except what we don’t understand, and what West Virginia U. might have accepted, is that having at least some control of alcohol consumption at a game could not only help reign in some of the anticipatory, aggressive tailgaiting—students essentially “smuggling” booze in by way of blood alcohol level—it could also help drive up university profits after a lagging 2014 NCAA season (with some of the lowest attendance numbers in over a decade).
The health of the teams is certainly at stake, and the money could be a much-needed salve. As WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons told The Times this September, “approximately $500,000 a year just in beer comes back to us.” Nor is this a new phenomenon. Last August, ESPN reported that more and more colleges outside the so-called “Power Five” conferences—no doubt more strapped for cash—were using alcohol sales “as an alternative revenue stream.” As College Sports Solutions President Jeff Schemmel told ESPN, “every institution is looking at how they can increase revenue streams, and alcohol is one of those…Everything is on the table.”
But the health of the collegiate student body is also at stake. Whether selling alcohol on campus is a danger to students is questionable, considering the painfully obvious fact that not selling alcohol hasn’t quite prevented consumption. As the Times reported in December of last year, “fewer than half of colleges consistently enforce their alcohol policies at tailgates.” And that isn’t even where all the drinking happens. There’s that rampant booze-smuggling. Google “sneaking alcohol into college football games,” and you’ll get links like this, where borderline alcoholic booze-hiding tips are offered freely, because “no one wants to sober up during the game.” Among said tips: “Liquor is your best option,” and “ABV is the only stat that matters here.” (FYI, according to BroBible.com, anyway, repurposed water bottles are child’s play.)
Bear in mind, that’s just one link. Tips for college smuggling runneth over, and the smuggling continues well into adulthood, or whatever alcoholic-secret-agent adulthood requires the use of an iFlask yes, an Apple phone-shaped flask to avoid paying $7.50 (the NFL industry average) for a mid-range beer. Granted, plenty stadium costs are outlandish, and sneaking in a bit of your own stuff feels like a way to fight the man—if not directly punch Roger Goddell, at least give him a metaphorical slap. But there’s at least some logic to overcharging (and not just to support bloated franchises). Think about it. If stadium’s, college or otherwise, sold Bud at $3 a draft, we’d all be too sauced to notice the second half. We’d probably spend the third quarter calling old high school friends to see “what the hell’s goin’ on, dude? Remember math class?”, and spend the entire fourth quarter on a massive, intoxicated line that ends in a nasty, nasty bathroom.
Maybe it’s not intentional, and we certainly won’t assume the best of overpricing macro beer, but it does have the effect of limiting consumption. Unless, of course, sneak-in measures are taken: iFlask, something very confusingly called “Sneaky Shorts,” and classic Sippin’ Seats (which have the dual capacity to hold 24 ounces to 36 ounces of alcohol and accommodate up to 300 pounds of alcohol-consuming person).
But bringing alcohol sales into college stadiums specifically might deter students facing severe penalties, at least those of age to purchase said alcohol. (If we’re really gonna think this through, of-age students could also purchase alcohol for their underage friends, the whole crew avoiding expulsion!) Not that we’re recommending anything, but the appearance of alcoholic concessions at college games is a generally innocuous thing: best case scenario, it pumps much-needed funds into some lean conference pockets and maybe (maybe) deters some of the moronic hijinks of tailgating or booze-smuggling among the too-young-to-rent-a-car set.
Worst case scenario, drinking habits among the underage remain the same—in which case keep plenty of bacon jalapeno mac n’ cheese on hand, also tasers—while college athletic departments at least fatten their pockets.
And deterrence might not be a far-off goal. Chances are, most colleges with beer in concession stands will up their vigilance in spotting underage drinking and overconsumption, anyway.