Originally published November 17, 2012 at 12:36a.m., updated November 17, 2012 at 01:58p.m.
When today’s Big 12 football game between Iowa State and Kansas University reaches halftime, some in attendance will leave their seats and head back to the site of their pregame tailgate for a taste of what they had consumed a couple of hours earlier.
Some will even try to hide an alcoholic beverage in a flask upon re-entry, when security isn’t as tight because some of the personnel are dealing with issues that might arise during the first half. Such sneaky fans would be in keeping with a time-honored college football tradition.
And the university won’t make a dime on the sale of beer because in keeping with state laws governing public universities in Kansas, KU does not sell it at football games.
West Virginia University, which joined Texas Christian University as the newest members of the Big 12 at the beginning of this school year, didn’t used to sell beer at games either, but has for the past two football seasons.
West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck said that at the suggestion of the university police chief and the Morgantown police chief, he looked into changing what was known as the “pass-out” policy. (It was so named not because of what excessive drinking can make someone do; rather because spectators leaving the stadium were given a pass that gave them the right to re-enter.)
The more Luck looked into making a change, the better it looked to him to replace the pass-out policy with one that lifted the ban on selling beer and forbid re-entry to those leaving the stadium.
“During a conversation with the police chiefs, I said that I get it that hard-liquor consumption is not good with our fan base and asked, ‘What would your response be if I recommend that we sell beer in the stadium, and if you leave the stadium you can’t come back?’ They said they thought it was a reasonable approach, to stop the pass-out policy and offer beer sales,” Luck said in a recent telephone interview.
Incidents requiring police attention are down and revenue is way up, Luck said. He said the combination of revenue generated from beer sales and sponsorships from beer distributors that have come on board, brought in an estimated $750,000 in 2011 and could top $1 million this year.
Kansas visits West Virginia for its season finale Saturday, Dec. 1. KU Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger plans to be on the trip, but said he hasn’t yet discussed West Virginia’s new policy with Luck.
“Obviously, when we go there for the game, I’ll be interested in seeing what they’re doing,” Zenger said, “but based on our state laws and legislation, I don’t see it being something that would take hold here in Kansas.”
In the event Zenger is impressed enough to start looking into clearing the hurdles that stand in the way of selling beers, how would he go about lobbying for new legislation?
“I haven’t even given it enough thought to know what the next step would be,” Zenger said. “So really, at this point, I think ADs in our league are probably just interested in watching what the experience is, but I wouldn’t want to go any further than saying it’s just a curiosity at this point.”
Luck said response from West Virginia football fans has been overwhelmingly positive since the policy change.
“There have been a few emails like the one from someone who said, ‘My 60-year-old grandfather has been going out at halftime to get a sandwich at his tailgate for 40 years.’ I’ve heard maybe one or two other complaints about changing the pass-out policy,” Luck said. “People like the fact that they can buy a beer. A healthy percentage of people sitting in the stands at Mountaineer games are fans of the Steelers, Redskins, Ravens, Reds, Pirates or Orioles and can drink beer at those games.”
The 16-ounce beers sell for $7, $8 and $9, Luck said.
“Also, all our metrics on how many arrests are made show they are down from two years ago,” Luck said.
He said that from 2010, when beer was not sold and the pass-out policy was in place, to 2011, the first year of in-stadium beer sales, there were “25 to 30 percent fewer incidents that rose to the level of getting police involved.”
Since making the policy change, Akron University has done the same. Luck said he has had conversations with “probably half a dozen university representatives who have asked about what was the thought process, how has it worked out and what resistance did we encounter. Some schools are at least looking at it.”
Luck confirmed that thus far, Kansas has not been among the schools inquiring.