College Sports and Alcohol: A Good Idea?

This post is part of the Inaugural FOS College Program. Be sure to check out more about it here.

By Ron Slobodchikov, @RonSlobodchikov (SMU)

As schools look for more money, will more turn to alcohol? Photo via https://nyt.com/

As schools look for more money, will more turn to alcohol? Photo via https://nyt.com/

Recently, there has been a large trend throughout the sporting world to deliver a better value to consumers of live sporting events. Professional marketing and entertainment teams have been known to even micromanage every second during time-outs and half-times, with game scripts and promotions to the second. There has also been an increased proliferation of alcohol sales at many venues. These changes have not occurred without controversy, specifically the creeping expansion of alcohol into our various sports sanctuaries.

Some troubling numbers have spurred athletic directors and owners of teams and arenas into delivering greater value at sporting events. A number of teams and organizations are feeling constricted by a drop in average attendance. The average attendance at college football games across the country in 2016 was 44,190 people, a low not seen since 2003.

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On the surface, this may imply a decreasing popularity for sports in general, however, this is not true. On the contrary, these sports may be at the peak of their popularity. The issue that is being felt in facilities throughout the world is the difficulty in getting people to physically go to a game. It has proven difficult for sports teams to compete with fifty-inch high-definition televisions, oversized couches and relative cheapness of one’s home or favorite sports bar. This competition has led athletic directors and owners to consider new strategies that not so long ago would not have even seen the light of day.

Beer is a common staple present at college football tailgates around the country. However, many people are probably unaware that purchasing alcohol inside college stadiums is overwhelmingly not allowed. As fewer people venture out of their homes to watch college sports, athletic directors are left wondering on how to improve the consumer experience in their stadiums.

This has led many to suggest the introduction of alcohol sales to attract more fans while bolstering the coffers of many universities. Many smaller schools such as Troy, SMU, and North Texas have begun to offer alcoholic beverages in 2014 to great success. Many larger schools are using these smaller schools as study cases and analyzing the effect of introducing alcohol to their stadiums.

Indeed, alcohol has been a steady stream of revenue at West Virginia and Troy pulling in $250,000 and $500,000 respectively. This has only led administrators to keep eyeing the introduction of alcohol sales to plug in budgetary gaps. Evidently, this trend of selling alcohol at college football and basketball games is on the rise.

There are many issues that administrators must consider such as pricing, the location of sales, availability, and last call. There is also the issue of promoting drinking on a college campus that may be implied with these new liberties that professional teams do not have to tackle.

The history of alcohol and sports has been intertwined for years. These two pastimes have made themselves present in United States professional sports culture and that is now officially trickling down into college athletics. The trend seems only to be accelerating as the admission of alcohol sales is done responsibly. Something that was thought to be unnecessary is now at the forefront of college administrator’s minds, however, it only takes one bad case for everything to be undone.

Colleges should continue to be wary of that if they want to encourage fans to attend games and supply their athletic coffers with money from alcohol.


About the Author: Ron Sloobodchikov is a Senior at the South Methodist University majoring in Sport Management. His career interest is to work in soccer, hockey or tennis fields. You can connect with Ron on Linkedin here.

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