Beer sales at football games will be a new challenge to administrators

Lauren Ferguson

In one of President Fenves’ first actions as president, the UT system approved beer and wine sales at University of Texas football games beginning September 12. UT-Austin joins three other UT system schools — UT-El Paso, UT-San Antonio and UT-Arlington — as well as a handful of other universities in selling alcohol during sporting events.

Fenves voiced support for this new initiative at a press conference on his first day in office.

“We have very devoted fans that expect a high quality experience, and I think serving beer to them is part of their experience,” Fenves said on June 3.

The administration was quick to address the pressing safety concerns that arise with such alcohol sales.

"Fan safety and enjoyment remains our number one priority as we work through the process of expanding beer and wine sales into all seating areas of the stadium," Texas Men’s Athletics Director Steve Patterson said in a statement.

The approval has two major benefits. The sale of alcohol during games will earn the already immensely profitable football program more revenue. According to the Associated Press, of the schools that sell alcohol, about half of their game day revenue comes from alcohol sales. For example, the University of West Virginia University’s annual revenue for each of the last three years from game day alcohol sales has been at least $516,000.

Sale at football games may promote safe drinking practices before games. Oftentimes, tailgaters binge drink before entering a game to maintain a buzz throughout. Hopefully, beer and wine availability at games will discourage attendees from feeling the need to binge drink before games in anticipation of not having alcohol during.

Despite these benefits, alcohol sales at football games may come at high costs. First, the potential of excessive drinking could lead to irresponsibly rowdy behavior during or after games. Some universities that sell alcohol at sporting events employ a tracking system to combat this issue. For example, SMU employed a wristband system that limits the attendee to three beers.

Fenves commented on the safety concerns but without detailing any specific plan for monitoring attendees’ alcohol intake.

“We have very advanced safety precautions in terms of monitoring. We have not had any problems at any of the other venues,” Fenves said.

Despite the administration’s confidence, the “learning curve” so to speak of implementing such sales at UT’s massive football games will undoubtedly present challenges, not only to responsibly monitoring intake but also to the passage of drinks to underage attendees. The efforts to combat these issues will cost the University by way of hiring more personnel and creating monitoring systems. However, financial concerns should give way to the ethical responsibility the University carries to protect its students from alcohol-related dangers.

The large underage population at UT football games could present more issues than just underage drinking. Jan Withers, president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving National, voiced her apprehension to ESPN about the messages underage attendees will receive from game day alcohol sales.

"Kids are watching adults all the time, and if they see the only way to have fun is to drink a lot, then they're going to model after that. That's not the message we want to be sending to them,” Withers said.

The choice to sell beer and wine at Longhorn football games is a risky one. While it will certainly bring in more revenue, the real cost may fall upon the underage students. Here’s hoping the University is right and students remain safe.

Ferguson is an English and art history senior from Austin. Follow Ferguson on Twitter @LaurenFerg2.