In the sports world, few families come across as more conservative, more wholesome, than the Lucks. In our part of the world, we've become especially familiar with collective "aw shucks" persona that the family embodies, thanks to Colts quarterback Andrew. And that kind of clean-cut decency is why some of you who don't already know the following tidbit will be a little surprised: Oliver Luck brought alcohol into major intercollegiate athletics.
Okay, so his school wasn't the first, or even the biggest, to sell beer at home games. But it is the reason other schools shouldn't, and won't, be afraid to do it.
In 2011, Luck, then-Athletic Director at West Virginia University, recommended to WVU's Board of Governors the adoption of a new alcohol policy that would allow beer sales at Mountaineers football games. The Board did just that, and in the first year after the implementation of that policy, the University saw an increase in revenue and a decrease in the number of alcohol-related incidents requiring police response.
That's a correlation that some would find hard to believe. But one more tidbit of the West Virginia plan makes it more believable. The athletic department did away with pass-outs, which prevented fans from heading back to the parking lot, drinking copious amounts in short timespans, and then returning to the stadium.
Luck and the police chiefs with WVU and Morgantown all told Bloomberg that eliminating the pass-outs was the key to reducing the number of police responses in alcohol-related incidents.
In that first year of beer sales at WVU football games, the athletic department brought in $700,000 in revenue from the taps, which is an even more impressive figure when you consider that the University absolved itself of most, if not all, liability from the alcohol sales. How? The University doesn't hold a beer license. They don't technically sell it.
The press release from the adoption of the alcohol policy states, "The concessionaire, not the University, will hold the beer license, and all employees will be trained in responsible drinking management and intervention procedures, including implementation of a designated driver program."
West Virginia isn't the only school with that kind of arrangement with a concessionaire. Troy University contracts, in a similar fashion, with Sodexo. Troy provides the space for Sodexo to sell the beer, and in return, the University collects 43% of the revenue from the beer sales.
As was previously noted, West Virginia isn't the first or the biggest school to sell beer. But they are a better case study for it than, say, Louisville, which has off-campus facilities for both football and basketball. And the case study at West Virginia suggests that everyone should be selling beer.
I am not professing to know whether Indiana has a problem with alcohol-related incidents in the stands or parking lots. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn't. But even those problems don't exist, there are two reasons for Fred Glass to pull an Oliver Luck. Money and marketing.
$700,000 may not be much for an athletic department at a university the size of Indiana, but it's not nothing. And it's also not everything. That $700,000 in Morgantown was just from one season of football. Let's be conservative and assume that IU football won't be good enough and put enough butts in seats to sell $1,750,000 worth of beer (of course, bad football might lead to more beer sales), an approximate total of WVU's beer sales in 2011, presuming that the University received 40% of the revenue from sales.
So, let's say $1.25 million in beer sales is done at Memorial Stadium. That would come out to $500,000 in revenue for the athletic department. But, in approximately 20 home basketball games, that number would multiply. Again, being conservative, say 15,000 beers are sold at each home game (the real number would probably be closer to 20,000 or 25,000). At $5 per beer, that's $75,000 per game, or $1.5 million for the season. That's another $600,000 in revenue for the athletic department.
So, not even considering women's basketball, baseball, or any other sport, the athletic department could bring in approximately $1.1 million, in a year that would be considered disappointing based on sure-to-be higher expectations. Think about how excited the athletic department gets when an individual donates $1,000,000. There's $1,000,000 that can be donated each year if the athletic department would just grab it.
The marketing aspect is another, equally important, reason to bring beer sales to Bloomington. IU football is bad. Why sit in the stands on a cold November day when you can sit at home or Yogi's or wherever and watch while having a few beers in the process? Sure would be nice to have a cold one on a 90-degree Saturday in September when Cupcake Central's powderpuff team comes in and pushes them around, wouldn't it?
Especially when it comes to football and men's basketball, the two sports that will have every game shown on television, the athletic department is in competition with DirecTV and Comcast, whether they want to admit it or not. Fred Glass is in competition to provide the best gameday experience, and it's hard as hell to beat watching from the couch with 15 other games at your fingertips for whenever Western Podunk State takes a 17-point lead at the Rock with eight minutes to go.
Beer can be, for some, what pushes the in-stadium experience over the top and makes it worth actually going to the game.
For the other sports, it's an opportunity to produce even an iota of revenue. It's $5 for Joe Schmo to get into Bart Kaufman Field and watch the Hoosiers play baseball. But he might spend $40 if he could buy some beers, which may subsequently cause him to get hungry enough to buy one of those ridiculous triple play burgers.
Think about how great it would be during a unseasonably warm doubleheader in April to grab a pint and stand up top in the breeze. (And don't even get me started with what they should do with the roof in left field. Can you say party deck?)
The same goes for soccer, swimming, volleyball, anything.
To those who would say that it's not worth it, that it's not worth making a little extra money or putting a few extra people in the stands, to risk bringing all the problems that alcohol in the stadium into our stadiums, I'd say look at West Virginia. They did both of those things, and made it safer.
Fred Glass can do it in Bloomington. He can raise new revenue. He can help eliminate the leave-to-drink atmosphere at Memorial Stadium. He can get fans off the couch and into the stands. All he can do it all by tapping the keg.