Beer Sales at College Games


This week, I came across an Associated Press story by William Petroski about discussions to permit alcohol sales at the University of Iowa’s football games and other collegiate sports events throughout the state.

It turns out that Iowa is hardly the first state to sidle up to the bar. A 2015 article by Christian Malone, written for the website Saturday Down South, includes the following map:

2015 Beer Map for College Football Stadiums


Writing for in June 2016, Dennis Dodd has provided a great deal of information on the reasons why beer sales are increasingly permitted at college football stadiums and highlights the rationalizations for what seems to be first and foremost a financial decision:

“This fall, approximately 40 schools will offer beer (at least) to the general public at their college football stadiums. Several more schools are considering joining the party. No matter what your opinion, some sort of ethical boundary has been crossed.

“Let’s not forget half of the key demographic in this discussion is underage. Alcohol now seems destined to be not only a staple at college events, but in some cases, endorsed heartily by the NCAA.”

As Dodd reports, there is clearly substantial revenue to be made from beer sales, even if that revenue represents a small percentage of total athletics revenue at the universities with major programs:

“Alcohol sales produce more revenue. West Virginia reportedly made about $600,000 from beer and wine sales at football games last season.

“Texas was able to reap $1.8 million. Minnesota actually lost money in its first year of alcohol sales in 2012.

“In each case, though, the revenue produced is minuscule to the overall athletic budget. Still, the trend is growing. At least 36 schools will sell alcohol throughout the entire stadium in 2016. That’s more than a quarter of FBS.”

But the immediate, direct revenues may just be the proverbial tip of the iceberg:

“It’s easier to do business on campus with outside entities these days when alcohol is served. Penn State is allowing alcohol sales, in part to attract outside events such as the NHL, big rock concerts and soccer matches. . . .

“[Moreover,] it’s long been known the NCAA is leaving multi-millions on the table by not accepting alcohol advertising.

“How much would it be worth, say, to be the ‘official beer of the NCAA tournament?’

“You need only to check the NCAA’s roster of corporate ‘champions,’ the three main sponsors of the tournament–AT&T, Coke and Capital One. They each pay upward of $35 million per year to have that designation, according to ADWeek. The NCAA already has a corporate partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings, whose marketing slogan is, ‘Wings, Beer, Sports.’”

In that context, the other rationalizations offered for beer sales at the stadiums sound especially lame:

“The other line of reasoning sounds a bit like the NCAA and schools are putting out fire with gasoline: Alcohol sales prevents binge drinking. ‘Theories,’ the NCAA stated in its pilot program release, ‘suggest that making alcohol available’ cuts down on the practice.

The theory goes like this: If fans know there is alcohol available in the stadium, they won’t fuel up outside of it. Inside, limits are placed on how many cups can be purchased per visit to the concession stand.”

And here is a detail loaded with unstated ironies from my own state: “Ohio State began serving beer and wine in limited premium seat areas last season. The practice goes stadium-wide this season. Revenues will be used to fund two new positions on the Ohio State police department.”

Dennis Dodd’s complete article is available at:



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