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College Football: Getting the "Games" Off-Field Under Control


For many, the end of August marks the beginning of the best season all year: college football season. For students, alumni, and people who just love the game, college football is a great way to spend a weekend. Tailgating and partying--both inside and outside stadiums--can add to the experience of the game. Oftentimes, alcohol is part of this experience.

Colleges have long struggled with how to balance the inevitable mix of alcohol and collegiate sports. Drunk fans can lead to fights in the bleachers, rushing the field and vandalism at the end of games, and drunk driving accidents after games. Considering that approximately half of the stands in a typical college football game are comprised of people under the legal drinking age, it makes sense to prohibit alcohol sales inside stadiums. Yet some believe that doing so only encourages binge drinking outside stadiums before games, leading to worse behavior in the bleachers.


By 2010, West Virginia University had a problem on its hands. Its football program was losing the support of the town and alumni due to the drunk, out-of-control behavior of students and fans. Starting in 2011, WVU decided to sell alcohol inside its stadium, and prohibit people from re-entering the stadium once they left (thereby preventing binge drinking during half-time only to cause disturbances inside the stadium during the third and fourth quarters of the game). In the first year of this new policy, WVU reported: (1) bad behavior outside the stadium decreased; (2) fewer drunk incidents overall; and (3) the school made $500,000 in additional revenue from beer sales.

The additional revenue, while a fraction of the budget of college football programs, is nonetheless a factor in the decision about whether to sell alcohol inside stadiums. If the sale of alcohol inside stadiums is done with tight controls to avoid underage drinking, and if it helps to curb/stop binge drinking before games, then why not alleviate at least a little of the increasing costs of college football with the revenue generated by it?

Or so argue the supporters of selling alcohol at college sporting events. Those against the sale of alcohol, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, point out the hypocrisy of selling alcohol to lessen alcoholic behavior. Others point out religious reasons for not sanctioning the sale; in fact, the South Eastern Conference, the SEC, which includes many "Bible Belt" schools, still has a ban against the sale of alcohol to the general public at the games of the schools in its conference.


The University of Georgia is part of the SEC, and is therefore subject to its ban on the sale of alcohol to the general public inside stadiums of colleges in its conference. But in its "Gameday Gameplan" of 2014, UGA issued a set of guidelines that sought to limit alcohol consumption overall by: (1) prohibiting the introduction of outside alcohol; and (2) limiting the time and places allowed for tailgating. Many schools set parameters on tailgating--limiting the time for it before games, disallowing tailgating during half-time, and keeping the festivities to certain on-campus areas--hoping to curb the binge drinking that is disturbingly common at these football traditions.


Whether as an effort to stop pre-game binge drinking, an attempt to get additional revenue, or both (as WVU has done), some schools have changed their policy on alcohol sales. For the 2016 college football season, 36 schools will sell alcohol throughout the entire stadium, and a handful of others will sell it in premium seating areas. Although this still represents a minority of colleges, if no major incidents or accidents occur this season, more schools will most likely join the ranks next year. As 'Bama fans might put it, the Tide is turning.


Drinking, especially binge drinking, can lead to assaults and drunk driving accidents that cause injury and death. If you or someone you know has been injured in an assault or accident with someone who was drinking, contact Dave Thomas at The Thomas Law Firm for a free consultation of your legal rights. Your Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney can recover damages for medical expenses incurred due to injuries, lost wages, compensation for loss of companionship and for pain and suffering endured due to an assault, accident or death of a loved one.

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