More Colleges Selling Beer In Stadiums

August 10, 2011 /
Randy Peterson, Gannett


University of Northern Iowa athletic director Troy Dannen figures his search for new revenue someday will lead to what others nationally already have discovered: Tapping kegs at college football games for everyone of legal age can be financially rewarding.

“I do think it will have to happen for us at some time,” said Dannen, who is trying to pare as much money as he can from what the university’s general fund annually provides his department.

“We have to look out of the box sometimes, and we also have to look at what others are doing.”

West Virginia University for the first time is selling beer at football games to everyone of legal drinking age — not just high-rollers in luxury suites — “and we’re expecting to profit around $1 million,” athletic director Oliver Luck said in an interview.

“With the deficits that are being run at some schools getting bigger, you’re going to have more and more schools going to it.”

Beer will be sold this fall to average fans at 20 of 119 major college venues — twice as many as 10 years ago — according to responses from all Division I-A universities and the nation’s sports information directors.

“Right, wrong or indifferent, the college model in a vast majority of the stadiums is not to sell beer in a broad way,” said Gary Barta, University of Iowa athletic director.

“We could tomorrow make hundreds of thousands more if we chose to do it, and while I can never predict the long-term future, I have not had any conversations or entertained the idea of opening that concept.

“That’s the college model I’m most comfortable with.”

The NCAA has no rule preventing alcohol sales at regular-season events.

However, the organization bans sales and advertising of all alcohol at its 88 championships. Additionally, championship host sites must cover up alcohol-related advertising.

“There’s also the thought that you control the alcohol situation better if you’re selling within your stadium,” said Mike Thomas, University of Cincinnati athletic director and former administrative assistant at Iowa.

“Rather than people trying to sneak in alcohol, they can buy it in a controlled environment.

“Does it curb it completely? Probably not, but I’d guess that it’s not happening as often.”

Alcohol has a presence

While they don’t sell alcohol to fans outside of luxury suites, Iowa universities and others still have alcohol-related commercials during game-day broadcasts.

“We don’t do (alcohol-related) marketing or ads in our stadium,” Barta said.

“We’re very limited in our (alcohol-related) advertising on radio.”

The need to create revenue is why Northern Iowa’s Dannen thinks out of the box.

“I’m not saying it’s going to happen next year or the year after that,” Dannen said of selling beer to everyone of age. “I don’t know when.

“I do know that my challenge is to get off our books as much state money as possible, and I’m not going to replace it with TV revenues or luxury seating.”

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