Opinion: Big Ten schools should follow Ohio State’s lead, endorse in-stadium alcohol sales
The time has come for Big Ten universities and athletic program to band together and universally endorse the sale of alcohol at its respective football stadiums.
Simply put, the long-standing notion of college football stadiums being havens for clean, wholesome fun – free of alcohol consumption – has reached a saturation point. As such, it’s time to provide legal-aged fans with the choice – read luxury – of consuming drinks in moderation on-site.
According to CBSSports.com, at least 40 FBS schools will offer some form of in-stadium alcohol sales this fall, a revenue-based experiment that’s gathering steam throughout the country.
It should gather steam around the Big Ten as well.
Despite the increased participation, Minnesota and Ohio State appear to be the only Big Ten programs fully committed to in-stadium alcohol sales this season. Earlier this month, the Buckeyes’ brass approved the full-time implementation of alcohol sales at Ohio Stadium, after gauging a trial period last season.
It’s a great move for Ohio State, one of the nation’s highest-revenue athletic programs. Hopefully it will help motivate other Big Ten schools to opt in to something that’s economically and logistically feasible.
There are other positive factors at play, as well:
- Thirteen of the 14 Big Ten universities are public institutions, with Northwestern being the lone exception. Every member school, in terms of governmental measures, adheres to similar laws for open-container alcohol consumption on Saturdays.
- All 14 Big Ten stadiums are on-campus facilities and offer easy highway or interstate access for arrivals and departures – similar to NFL stadiums, where alcohol sales are permitted.
- The alcohol-sales laws for the states of Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Nebraska, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Iowa and Wisconsin are consistently liberal for any day of the week, aside from Sunday. This fits with the Big Ten’s preference for scheduling games on only Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
- In my lifetime, I cannot recall a Big Ten game that was canceled on a Saturday (due to inclement weather or emergency situation) and subsequently made up on a Sunday. In other words, the so-called ‘blue laws’ for 11 Big Ten states wouldn’t apply to Saturday games on campus.
‘PRO’ ARGUMENTS FOR IN-STADIUM ALCOHOL SALES
- Universities and athletic programs are always searching for ‘untapped’ revenue sources, and in-stadium alcohol sales would arguably the most lucrative venture. (Note: The Big Ten, perhaps the nation’s greatest revenue-generating conference, will reportedly earn $2.64 billion over the life of its next set of TV deals.)
- The marketing-savvy Big Ten, with all 14 teams supporting the alcohol-sales initiative, could easily negotiate an eight-figure sponsorship deal with a major beer provider. This would mitigate what happened to the University of Minnesota in 2012, when the school reportedly lost money in Year 1 of beer/wine stadium sales.
- The additional revenue from in-stadium alcohol sales could be earmarked for public projects at a school, similar to when money-seeking governmental units install temporary toll booths along state-run turnpikes or highways.
- Schools might be less tempted to play major non-conference games at neutral sites – Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, New York, for instance – knowing on-campus alcohol sales would yield greater total revenue on a Saturday-by-Saturday basis.
- With the nationwide implementation of personal-driver services — such as Uber or Lyft — fewer people each year are getting arrested for drunk driving.
- Many students/teachers/administrators live within walking distance of the on-campus football stadiums. This also serves as a great deterrent against buzzed or drunk driving.
‘NAY’ ARGUMENTS FOR IN-STADIUM ALCOHOL SALES
Every year, roughly 50 percent of the undergraduate students attending a Big Ten game would be under the age of 21. This presents an opportunity for underage minors to illegally attempt to purchase beer with fake IDs. As part of that, with the adoption of in-stadium alcohol sales, the universities might get some push-back from the public, as if they were tacitly supporting drunkenness among the student body.
But there’s a middle ground to be reached here, in the form of a limited time window for purchasing alcohol inside stadiums (before kickoff and prior to the final gun).
This again trickles down to the various ‘liability’ issues. However, the NFL has been managing that process for many decades.
Surely, the Big Ten powers-that-be and risk managers could find a safe, innovative way to emulate the NFL’s successful gameday operations.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.