As Alcohol Service Increases, What Are Participating Schools Doing to Accommodate and Control?

August 14th, 2017 | by Francis Giknis
As Alcohol Service Increases, What Are Participating Schools Doing to Accommodate and Control?

Alcohol at College Games

Last week, the Air Force Academy became the most recent college to commit to offering alcohol during its upcoming football season. This decision is becoming more and more common on college campuses nationwide as schools seek to bring fans to the stadiums rather than lose them to local bars. In fact, there are so many schools following the trend that another one changing its policies is hardly news to anyone outside that immediate fan base.

What is interesting, though, is looking at how these schools will regulate and control consumption in an effort to keep their stadiums family-friendly spaces. In a surprise to no one, alcohol consumption at college events has led to rowdiness and bad fan behavior in the past, and booze sales have long been prohibited at NCAA-sanctioned events, in part due to the substantial underaged audience at most NCAA events.

Walking the fine line between supporting alcohol sales and making stadiums more family-friendly is a difficult task, and crowd-sourcing successful policies and practices is a valuable exercise for athletic departments considering the transition. Here are some of the things schools are doing to ensure alcohol stays legal and does not infringe on the welcoming nature of the stadium:

  1. Limit drink purchases to two at a time A no-brainer and common practice in pro arenas, limiting the number of drinks per individual will serve an even greater benefit in the college arena. For starters, it slows down consumption by forcing more trips to the concession stand for refills. Secondly, while it can’t eliminate underage consumption entirely, it certainly curtails the ability to easily distribute beers to a whole row of 19 year-olds.


  1. Require an ID for each drink purchased This will ruffle the feathers of the class of ’76 alum trying to grab a beer for his buddy and himself but can be a good way to prevent that second available beer going to someone underage. Again, there is no perfect solution to ensure that beers aren’t getting handed to class of 2020ers, but this policy helps.


  1. Limit the overall purchases for everyone This one comes from Southern Methodist University. Upon entry, students over 21 receive a wristband with three tabs. When a drink is bought, a tab is torn-off, thus theoretically limiting overall consumption. Interestingly, over-21 non-students receive a wristband with only one tab.


  1. Offer alcohol-free zones If the concern is about families feeling uncomfortable around people imbibing (possibly to excess), some college stadiums offer locations where alcohol is prohibited. These could include family-friendly attractions without the concern of dealing with over-served patrons.


  1. Keep it to beer & wine No one on the college level is proposing bringing hard liquor into stadiums, but then again, many didn’t think there would be frozen margaritas and daiquiris at the Phillies game. Point being, as social acceptance of beer and wine in college stadiums, gains momentum, there will be pressure to introduce the hard stuff, which changes the conversation due to its concentrated nature and faster consumption.

Trying to draw fans back to the stadium, both the NCAA and colleges have relaxed their alcohol policies. The College World Series, which hasn’t allowed alcohol since 1964, now has beer available, and universities operating non-NCAA sanctioned events have jumped on the bandwagon (or is it they’ve fallen off it?). Does it seem like sanctioning alcohol sales, which has led to rowdiness and bad fan behavior in the past, stands contrary to attempts to make stadiums family-friendly? Perhaps; and that is why schools considering allowing booze must absolutely have a concrete set of policies built on the successes of other institutions.

About Francis Giknis
Francis Giknis joins College AD as a contributor after seven years of teaching and coaching throughout the east coast. Prior to writing for College AD, Francis earned an English degree from the College of William and Mary and his masters at Columbia University. Raised in a cable television-free household, he remembers binge-watching ESPN while on vacations away from home, much to the chagrin of his parents.

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