The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Alcohol Welcomed At Games, Campus-Wide Abuse Deserves Attention

By Preston Hutcherson

Last fall I traveled to College Station to attend the SMU vs. Texas A&M; football game. The night before the game I ventured incognito to the famous “Midnight Yell,” one of the most unique and, frankly, amazing pre-game rituals in college sports.

There was a certain portion of the ceremony devoted to “SMU jokes,” as if there could really be such a thing. One of my personal favorites was “How many SMU students does it take to change a tire? Two — one to hold the drinks while the other calls daddy.” Fair enough, Aggies.

On Sept. 20 of this year, SMU, A&M; and various drinks will meet again as Ford Stadium hosts its first game of the 2014 season and the first in its history to feature onsite beer and wine sales.

In making the long-rumored change official, SMU finds itself in the news and on the leading edge of what will perhaps in a decade be the new normal at collegiate sporting events.

The idea of allowing alcohol sales at games was given a test run early this spring in Moody Coliseum. The result: a rumored six figure revenue for the Athletic Department.

In the years of debate that preceded this change there was passionate objection raised by some that now, deserves mention, even with the understanding that no matter what tentative language is used by the administration, alcohol sales are almost certainly here and here to stay even before they officially begin.

Nothing short of catastrophically bad publicity will result in a reversal. The mild embarrassment of TV cameras ogling the occasional comically drunken fan is unlikely to persuade the school to forgo the hundreds of thousands of dollars in additional funds that alcohol sales will bring.

Speaking of drunken fans, one concern opponents of in-game booze raised was grounded in the notion that SMU students and alcohol rarely mix well, especially in public, and there might be significant safety and moral hazards associated with allowing access to beer and wine at the stadium. But in examining the experiences of other universities who have allowed similar sales, these doomsday scenarios have not materialized.

In fact, West Virginia University reported a decrease in unruly behavior the first season it allowed alcohol sales at football games. The relative ease with which such sales proceeded at SMU’s home basketball games last season also counters the prediction of mass chaos served by the drink.

This peaceful trend is likely to continue into this fall, due largely to the strict regulations that will govern beer and wine sales in Ford Stadium. (If anything, the alcohol there will be the most expensive and hardest to obtain on campus.)

But a problem-free rollout of beer and wine at sporting events should not dissuade those who want to have a meaningful discussion about alcohol at SMU, because the case that SMU has a serious problem with alcohol abuse remains valid and important.

With or without beer sold at football games, one thing that is an unfortunate certainty of the fall semester at SMU is that at least one student will be rolled out of his or her residence hall or apartment or Greek house on a stretcher and rushed to a nearby hospital to be treated for alcohol poisoning.

It’s a sickeningly regular time bomb that disrupts life on campus multiple times each year. How long before emergency personnel become intimately acquainted with the fastest way to carry an unconscious student out of newly-opened Armstrong Commons?

Or most disturbingly, how long before an SMU official will again have to make an existence-altering 3 a.m. phone call to the parents of one of our fellow students? Every time tragedy strikes our community, it’s too soon.

The highly structured and highly profitable sale of beer at Ford Stadium is unlikely to add anything significant to the existing problems of our campus but will very likely add a significant boost to our football game attendance and bottom line.

But in recognizing the good things that allowing alcohol at our athletic events brings about, let us not neglect the task of addressing dangerous drinking habits on our campus. For if our tragic history is any guide, the next time “SMU” and “alcohol” are mentioned in the same headline, it will likely not be about our football stadium.

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