It is a true and immutable fact of the college football universe that at any given point on game day, the average blood alcohol content of the student section is well over the legal limit in any stadium not located in Provo, Utah.
I’m a recent graduate with no money to go to games and so I can’t vouch for the average intoxication level of the adults in the stands that aren’t in the student section. But you get the sense walking around TCU’s campus on game day that a large portion of the adult fanbase has imbibed at least one or two frosty Coors Lights while tailgating. (There’s no need to speculate about this at, say, Washington State games.)
This is not to glorify drinking, of course, or to say that college football cannot be enjoyed without alcohol. I was the risk manager of my fraternity; I’m used to being a wet blanket on these issues. Plenty of my friends don’t drink, and they have just as much fun as anyone. Let me stress this one more time, because I feel it’s important — it’s okay not to drink at tailgates or games!
(Although it is really fun.)
I say all that to preface my point, which is that the Southeastern Conference — better known as the SEC, perhaps you’ve heard of it — has recently allowed its member schools to serve beer in football stadiums if the schools choose to do so. Stadiums can also now apparently sell wine, although anyone drinking a full-bodied cabernet in sweltering Florida heat should not be allowed to walk around in public with normal people.
As of Thursday, four schools — Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Mississippi State — will reportedly not allow alcohol sales in stadiums. The other 10 member institutions of the SEC either already have or are expected to sell beer and wine. The preppies at Vanderbilt and Ole Miss can drink their pinot grigio in the stands, and the rest of the conference can fill up on $8 Bud Lights. Geaux Tigers.
The Big 12 currently allows beer sales at baseball and football games, but only three schools — West Virginia, Texas and Oklahoma State — allow sales at football games. TCU began selling beer at baseball games in 2018.
Thus: the question: Should TCU allow beer sales at football games? At first glance, the answer seems like a yes. At second and third glances, the answer is still a yes.
Look, people drink before football games. Students — both under and above legal drinking age — especially drink before football games. That’s not something an athletic department is fit to handle.
But, speaking from experience, there can sometimes be a feeling that you have to get as loaded as possible before heading to the stadium, because once you get there, there’s no more booze for you. The lack of alcohol at a stadium can encourage fans to dangerously binge drink before games. That leads to fights, that leads to alcohol poisoning, that leads to dehydration in the heat — all of which are major problems.
I’m not the first person to point this out and I won’t be the last. But if stadiums allow beer sales, fans that want to drink while watching college football won’t feel that pressure to pound down a dozen Natty Lights at the tailgate. They can moderate their alcohol intake, knowing they can buy a drink or two at the stadium.
And outside of the safety issue that allowing beer and wine sales at a stadium can help alleviate, there is the whole matter of it being pretty fun to drink beer. In the press release the conference put out announcing the rule change, University of South Carolina president Harris Pastides said “This policy is intended to enhance the game-day experience at SEC athletics events by providing our schools the autonomy to make appropriate decisions for their respective campuses while also establishing expectations for responsible management of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.”
That’s PR-speak for “fans want to drink, and we’re trying to figure out the easiest and safest way to let that happen.”
The SEC also has common-sense regulations for beer and wine sales. Cribbing from the press release, the conference mandates that:
Alcoholic beverages are to be sold and dispensed only at designated stationary locations;
Alcoholic beverages may not be sold by vendors within the seating areas;
Identification check is required at every point of sale to prevent sales to minors;
Alcoholic beverage sales are limited to beer and wine only (no hard liquor or mixed drinks may be sold in public seating areas);
Limits must be established on the number of drinks purchased at one time by an individual;
Alcohol must be dispensed into cups;
Safe server training and additional training for staff to handle high risk situations is required
The conference also puts a limit as to how late in a game alcohol can be sold.
All of these make sense. And all of these can easily be accomplished at TCU.
University chancellor Victor Boschini talked about the pros and cons of allowing beer at baseball games last year, according to the TCU360.
“I have an ambivalent feeling both ways about it,” Boschini said. “The main pro I see about is that people won’t go in and out and be drinking because that’s where I think people drink too much, especially younger people, in my opinion. This will stop that and we’ll patrol the sale of alcohol.
“I worry about in general having alcohol available in the stadiums, any stadium, just because there are all these issues with it....To me, it would look like less drunk people because drinking is regulated more. It drives me crazy when I see those kinds of people causing problems at the stadiums, and a more enriched fan experience for all the fans with people not coming in and out the whole time.”
I don’t know if allowing beer and wine sales at TCU games will draw more fans to the stadium. I doubt it will, and honestly, I hope that’s not the dealbreaker keeping fans from coming.
But I do believe it could enhance the game day experience and make it a bit safer. And that’s reason enough for me.