This spring, Texas is going to get its game on and its drink on.
Following an initial report from Chip Brown of Orangebloods.com, Texas confirmed that alcohol sales will begin on Friday during the school's softball doubleheader. The sale of beer and wine will continue this spring at men’s and women’s basketball games, baseball and softball games, as well as certain areas at the Texas Relays.
In a statement via Orangebloods.com, athletic director Steve Patterson referred to it as a test run of sorts: "This trial 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. We could look into expanding it for other sports events next fall provided the outcome of the trial is positive."
Obviously, Patterson is referring to the possibility of booze at football games, though beer will not be sold at Texas' spring game on April 19. It's much simpler to test the waters—or the suds, so to speak—with crowds that don't come close to reaching 100,000.
If Texas can turn even a little bit of a profit without too many alcohol-fueled problems in the stands, expect sales to be green-lighted for football games.
So what's the magic number for Texas? It's hard to tell, but fellow Big 12 member West Virginia made $520,000 in beer sales in 2011—its first year selling alcohol—according to athletic director Oliver Luck.
(West Virginia recently considered adding wine sales during football games, though that bill has hit a snag.)
For context, West Virginia's Milan Puskar Stadium seats about 60,000 fans.
The potential to add another, say, $1 million to Texas' athletic budget through alcohol sales is tempting. At the same time, the administration has to curb concerns about fan behavior and underage drinking.
UT president Bill Powers has already started that public-relations campaign in an interview with Brian Davis of the Austin American-Statesman:
A lot of adult fans and alumni would like to have a beer. As a general rule, we’d like to make it a good experience when they come to our events. There are young people there, too. That’s been a thought and reason in the past why we have not served.
We are rigorous about enforcing underage drinking. It will be very controlled.
One of the things we are concerned about is pre-game binge drinking. You go to a lot of places, away games, even home games, most of the incidents anecdotally that I have witnessed come before the game starts. People tailgate and they think they’ve got to polish off whatever they have sort of in a binge.
Powers' comments sound a lot like Luck's when WVU began selling alcohol three years ago. A key difference is Luck also eliminated a halftime pass-out policy, which previously allowed fans to leave at halftime and re-enter the stadium in the second half.
That meant if fans wanted to drink, they had to do it on WVU's terms—and prices—for the three to four hours they were in the stadium. If beers are $8 a cup, natural reasoning suggests fans will purchase/drink less in the stadium.
So, yes, there's an element of control that Texas would have. Still, it doesn't prevent binge drinking before the game—fans can do that regardless—or underage drinking. An of-age fan could purchase a beer and give it to another underage fan in the stands.
It's ultimately a matter of risk and reward for Powers. If the monetary reward of alcohol sales outweighs any problems it causes, it's likely going to be approved for football games.
Alcohol sales are first and foremost about boosting revenue, and nothing anyone says will change that fact. For Texas, there's potential for a lot of revenue to be made.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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