To Drink or Not to Drink? Football’s New Question

This past week, the SEC lifted their ban on alcohol sales in stadiums.

The reason is simple: it's a move to address attendance, which is affecting athletic programs nationwide.

College athletics is a money game, and then some. As the pursuit of stadium renovations, new football facilities, and network contracts has gone sky high, the decline of attendance has been a major red flag for athletic directors everywhere. After all, in big-money college athletics, football is the revenue generator that funds most all the other sports on campus.

Football attendance, for the most part, is down. You'll hear people blame the networks; after all it's much easier now to see games on TV than ever before. You'll hear people blame the traffic; that huge crowds in small towns makes for the kind of traffic jams that make people stay home, as they're worse than the jams on the commutes they face on weekdays.

There might be some truth to both. However, one can't forget that the price of tickets has soared in recent years. College football has become a pretty expensive endeavor to tackle each fall, as tickets have gone from decently reasonable to eye-raising high in very short time.

So, the answer that the conference has? Produce another stream of revenue. Ticket prices won't have to skyrocket as fast if suds are being slung. And, given it's in stadiums, beer won't be sold cheap.

Wisely, the SEC did put some restrictions in place when lifting their alcohol ban. There will be limits to alcohol sold per person and there will be designated stop times for each game. Will it actually limit arrests and altercations? That's disputed now and likely will be for years. And the SEC definitely has to tiptoe through this, as do other conferences. There's a lot of target markets in college football: catering too heavily to one might wipe out another in due time.

Bottom line: the drama has to be on the football field and not in the stands. If the latter overtakes the former, especially in a conference that lives and breathes football, it will be a major blow to college athletics as a whole.

Personally, I think there are other ways to get fans in the seats. Bring some serious pre-game excitement. Speed the game up (faster clock and force teams to go for two at the very start of overtime). Have sections in each stadium for more affordable seats, as well as family sections in which alcohol isn't served. However, it's worth a shot to see if beer and wine sales will boost revenues, lower altercations, and increase attendance.

After all, the easiest road to success (and the worst way to be punished) for any college athletic program is through the pocketbook.

However, Greg Sankey and other commissioners need to have a very short leash on this. If it gets out of hand, pull it fast. The sport can't afford anything less.

Comments and Conversation

June 4, 2019


One factor you didn’t mention is that allowing alcohol sales in stadiums actually has the potential to reduce binge drinking by students. If alcohol can’t be bought in a stadium, then many students will attempt to load up beforehand, or smuggle hard liquor into the stadium. But if they can buy beer in the stadium, then they may not feel the need to do that, and stadium personnel can help monitor the safety of drinkers.

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