Loren Tate: Illini could soon be tapping into the business of selling beers

Loren Tate: Illini could soon be tapping into the business of selling beers

I like beer, it makes me a jolly good fellow,

I like beer, it helps me unwind and sometimes it makes me feel mellow ... makes him feel m-e-l-l-o-w.

Like the walls of Jericho, which archaeologists claim "came a-tumblin' down," the barrier between college athletic programs and alcohol is crumbling.

Face it, lyricist Tom T. Hall isn't the only one who likes beer. There are 464 registered alcohol license holders in Champaign County. That's four hundred sixty-four. So the sloshing sound reverberating in your eardrums is the river of alcohol seeking a new outlet and moving from the nation's campus bars to college stadiums.

Always follow the money. Marketing exec Bryce McTavish points out that "you buy a keg for $75 and sell it for $1,400."

'Enhanced experience'

That's a revenue stream just begging to be tapped. And that goes double when you realize that, even with 11 a.m. starts, sleepy-eyed college students are resisting the trek to the stadium in favor of watching multiple games at a nearby pub.

Or in the case of Illinois, some ticket holders hang out in or near Grange Grove past the kickoff.

You'll love the supervisory reasoning that will accompany Anheuser-Busch trucks to the ballpark. It's not the money, it's the "enhanced experience." Sure.

UI athletic director Josh Whitman has appeared to be resistant, but he's monitoring the situation and is alert to this burgeoning trend. Purdue is in the fold. And Ohio State, which like everyone allows alcohol for the big spenders in the suites (and at the Schottenstein Center), began stadium-wide sales to the general public last fall.

In a smart PR move — administrators never condone consumption — the Buckeye athletic department used part of the revenue to help fund two full-time policemen, and an institutional research study into cultural effects of alcohol.

Others in the fold

Texas A&M is diving in, and the Texas Longhorns cleared $1.3 million last year in its deal with Corona.

The California State University system rescinded its ban, and San Diego State will be back in the beer business for multiple sports including basketball.

Some, like Fresno State, will limit sales at Bulldog Stadium to specific locations. And now, with roughly 40 schools heavy into the move and more considering it, administrators chime in that beer will be allowed as long as the guzzling is done "responsibly" (pause for laughter here).

An untapped field

It boils down to this: College students are staying away from games in increasing numbers. If they don't attend while on campus, it's much less likely that they'll be spectators and donors later on.

Call it an untapped field, which also includes advertising dollars from willing sponsors who have capitalized on professional sports but have been historically banned by the colleges. Beer companies are moving fast with

Anheuser-Busch InBev and Miller-Coors already hold marketing rights to approximately 100 colleges, according to SportsBusiness Journal.

It will remain a touchy subject locally. There'll be pushback. Several years ago, the UI had Coors Light billboards removed with the explanation that retail sales were OK but couldn't be promoted on billboards.

Soon Whitman and campus leaders will be swept along with the realization that "almost everyone else has found it acceptable." Beer sales have already been approved at NCAA football and baseball playoffs and will inevitably move into basketball as well.

So relax, sit back and have a cool one.

P.S. — Beer requires grain. As any farmer knows, that was the beginning of agriculture.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Moonpie wrote on August 06, 2017 at 9:08 am

The walls of Jericho. Gee, no hype here. You wouldn't think this was wriiten by a pimple-faced high school sophomore in 1936 at all.

"Well, you got trouble my friend. Right here, I say, trouble right here in River City."

-- Harold Hill, The Music Man

Just more stating the obvious from Capt. Obvious.

jdstieg wrote on August 06, 2017 at 4:08 pm

Mikey, Mikey, Mikey.  You got fired from the News-Gazette.  Still bitter?  Loren Tate kept his job.  You didn't.  Hee hee hee.  

Merriam-Webster wrote on August 07, 2017 at 10:08 am

If you can get a beer at Disney World or Chuckie Cheeses, why not at an Illini game?  The rich people up in the suites and clubs get to drink not only beer and wine, but also liquor, so why not the average fan?  Is the U of I saying that average folks can hold their booze less than the average fan?  Kids are up in the boxes and suites too, so it's not a matter of not having booze exposed to kids, as again, you can even get a beer in many movie theaters now.  One could easily make the argument that the decision to not sell beer, wine, booze in the regular fan areas is an act of discrimination against the masses.

fuddrules wrote on August 07, 2017 at 11:08 pm

Because the Libs on campus know better than you do on what you should be drinking. Just don't ask them what they're drinking behind the door.   They like to play pretend.  The whole thing is a farce as more booze is consumed on a college campus than virtually anywhere else.   But keep playing make believe. It's what they're good at. 

dammer674 wrote on August 07, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Most folks that sit around me at the football games sneak booze/beer in past "security".

BruckJr wrote on August 07, 2017 at 2:08 pm

May help to dull the pain of another season of Illini football.