By Robin Stears
Youngstown State University has begun offering alcohol during football games this season for the first time in Stambaugh Stadium’s 35-year history. YSU is the last university in Ohio to sell beer at football games.
Alcohol abuse is one of the major issues confronting colleges today. Drinking is often seen as part of the college experience, even a rite of passage. Offering alcohol sales at college football games only contributes to this culture of drinking.
Offering alcohol during the game discourages binge drinking, some argue, and concessions may try to limit fans’ intake by charging high prices. However, tailgaters are unlikely to give up their pre-game festivities, leading to already-drunk fans getting even drunker during the game. Fans whose inhibitions are lowered due to alcohol consumption may not be deterred by high prices, which poses even more moral and ethical questions.
Others argue that offering alcohol will encourage fans who currently watch the game at sports bars to attend the game in person. However, fans watch the game at sports bars because the refreshments are less expensive and there’s rarely a line for the bathroom. They go to sports bars to socialize with their friends and watch instant slo-mo replays on 50-inch screens. Those fans are never going to Stambaugh Stadium, nor are the fans who watch at home in their recliners – no pants necessary. Those fans will never brave inclement weather or long bathroom lines, whether beer is served or not.
The only argument in favor of selling alcohol at college football games is the NCAA’s rationale that alcohol sales produce more revenue. Currently, the NCAA doesn’t accept alcohol advertising, but it is clear that this path is leading toward “the official beer of the YSU Penguins,” sales of wine and spirits, or worse, the “Penguinrita.”
College football is not the NFL, nor should it be. YSU is an educational institution, and football is an extracurricular, not YSU’s primary reason for existing. While colleges theoretically could benefit economically from selling beer, financial gain shouldn’t come at the expense of student safety. YSU must prioritize students’ health over school finances when considering alcohol-related policies.
Speaking of arguments, the administration would have a hard time arguing against fans storming the field, throwing things at players and being ejected for disorderly or violent behavior while they hypocritically encourage fans to imbibe at the games.
Fans who formerly got drunk in the parking lot who had three or more hours to sober up during the game and who used to suffer a fourth-quarter hangover will pose a greater drunk-driving risk as they become even more inebriated. Rowdier fans will require extra security. Furthermore, as evidenced by one of YSU football’s newest recruit, Ma’lik Richmond, alcohol is often involved in cases of sexual assault and rape.
Football games that include alcohol are not family-friendly; drunks can be obnoxious and inappropriate and occasionally, they throw up.
YSU is concerned about improving the fan experience and increasing attendance, but surely there must be alternatives that don’t involve increased risks of altercations, binge drinking, drunk driving and accidents involving inebriated fans, as well as their associated expenses.
YSU could certainly offer alcohol at other Stambaugh Stadium events such as concerts to create an additional revenue stream, but the counterintuitive hypothesis that offering alcohol during football games will decrease drinking is dubious at best and completely illogical at worst.