Cheers to the Longhorns! The University of Texas has announced the selling of beer and wine at select Texas sporting events, which will begin Friday, Feb. 28, at the Texas Softball Invitational, according to a media press release.
This development is not the first time Texas has considered selling alcohol at sporting events. Former athletics director DeLoss Dodds told the Daily Texan last spring that he and his staff had constantly discussed the possibility. But those talks have been put into action.
"This will be in effect this spring for all remaining men's and women's basketball, softball and baseball games, and the fan fest area at the Texas Relays," Texas athletics director Steve Patterson said. "We could look into expanding it for other sports events next fall provided the outcome of the trial is positive."
The Longhorns join West Virginia and Kansas State as Big 12 schools that offer alcohol sales for the general seating fans.
Let's pretend this trial period is in fact positive and Texas proceeds to sell alcohol at DKR Texas Memorial Stadium this fall. Will it make for a better game-day experience? Or will it negatively impact the crowd atmosphere?
Men's basketball coach Rick Barnes weighed in on this topic, and it sounds as if he is rather fond of this decision.
"It is about the atmosphere," Barnes said (Via Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com). "People could stay home every night and watch a basketball game. What's going to make people come to games? It's excitement created inside the building. It's the fan experience. You have to make the fans love coming."
Texas basketball does not bring in the same weekly draw as Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse, Louisville and other "basketball schools," so it is not surprising Barnes is in favor of anything to get more fans at games.
During the 2013 football season, Texas defensive back Quandre Diggs was asked about the rowdiness of the crowd at West Virginia due to the Mountaineers alcohol sales in the stadium. Diggs said, "Heck, we might need to do it here if it's going to get our fans more rowdy."
DKR Texas Memorial Stadium seats more than 100,000 fans, yet sometimes sounds as if there are 50,000 fans at the games. Creating a rowdy environment might be something the Longhorns need from their fans, but not everyone has the same opinion of involving alcohol as a way to enhance the fan experience.
"I personally think it would have a negative impact on the overall experience of the stadium," Texas alum Ty Carbajal told Bleacher Report. "In theory, it should sound like a great idea, but introducing more alcohol into an already heated environment could create very bad results. Tailgating before the game and celebrating after is a given, but game time is a sacred time to show your Longhorn pride."
Other fans expressed their resistance to alcohol sales because of the expected premium cost to pay for a beer.
"I've had more conversations about the $10 price tag that is sure to accompany the purchase," Texas fan TJ Donnell said. "A billion dollar program making you pay 12-pack prices for 12 ounces of beer is silly. Overall, I think it will do little to put butts in the seats before kickoff, which in my opinion is the point."
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck pushed for beer sales at concessions in 2011, and the push has apparently paid off for the Mountaineers. Concession sales went from $613,651 for the 2010-2011 season to $1.26 million during the 2011-2012 season, nearly $520,000 was in beer sales alone, according to WVGazette.com.
It is easy to speculate the reason for Texas venturing into alcohol sales is because of increased revenue. But UT President Bill Powers told the Austin American-Statesman this decision is about enhancing the fan experience.
"A lot of adult fans and alumni would like to have a beer," Powers told Brian Davis of the Statesman. "As a general rule, we'd like to make it a good experience when they come to our events."
Whether it's about dollars or the fan experience, Texas' decision to sell alcohol is going to receive mixed reviews. But only time will determine if this decision will be beneficial for all of those involved.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
Taylor Gaspar is Bleacher Report's lead writer covering the Texas Longhorns. Follow Taylor on Twitter: @Taylor_Gaspar.
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