Alcohol Sales Hope to Change University Sports Atmosphere

By Hannah Klarner
For Unwind magazine

Football and beer are synonymous with the college experience. That being the case, it was no surprise when the University of Maryland announced that the 2015 season would be a pilot year to sell beer to fans at Byrd Stadium. This university claims the alcohol initiative is designed to help curb binge underage drinking on the campus, but the student body isn’t exactly buying into it.

Tailgating culture often prevents students and other fans from entering the stadium in time for kickoff, and even staying for the entire game.

Photo by Karina Shedrofsky

Photo by Karina Shedrofsky

“My next door neighbor, who has had season tickets to Maryland football for at least 30 years, a lot of the times doesn’t even make it out of the parking lot,” said Joe Mullineaux, the senior associate director of Dining Services.

Mullineaux was involved in the creation and execution of beer sales at the games.

There is a complex set of protocols to be followed when someone purchases beer (limit of one) at Byrd Stadium. According to Mullineaux, each concession stand with beer has access to an updated listing of every state’s driver’s license. All IDs are scanned, put through a black light test and entered into a system.

Any person believed to be under the age of 40 will be carded, and fans caught misrepresenting their age or buying a beer for an underage student will not only be ejected from the game, but face criminal prosecution. If that person is a student, they will be sent to the Office of Student Conduct. There are also uniformed University of Maryland police officers working with the concessionaires and plain-clothed cops in the stands.

Only three home games have been played, but Mullineaux is confident the pilot program will be a success. He said that in the two completed games, there have been no incidents with students related to drinking in the stadium. Although success is hard to define, Mullineaux did note a positive change in fan behavior over recent seasons.

“Fifteen years ago … you’d see all the trash and you’d see the beer cans and liquor bottles, and you don’t see much of that anymore,” Mullineaux said.

While the administration believes there will be a decline in binge drinking and a more controlled environment for students over 21, the student body is not as sure.

“I don’t think this is the silver bullet to end all binge drinking and all bad behavior but hopefully the incidents go down in the stadium,” said SGA President Patrick Ronk, who proposed the alcohol initiative to the Athletic Council.

Hope seems to be the trend among students.

“I want there to be a change,” junior bioengineering major Ojai McLeod said. “I want there to be less binge drinking, but it’s so hard.”

McLeod is not opposed to the alcohol sales, but does not see it as the safety initiative the university claims it is.

“I really do feel like at the end of the day, Maryland is in it for the cash,” McLeod said.

Some students believe the additional precautions will cause problems regarding the tailgate.

“I think that will just make people want to drink more before the game,” said junior aerospace engineering major Carrie Baumgartner.

Some fearless college students are already challenging the system, and succeeding.

Freshman Eric Arai, who is enrolled in letters and sciences, told the story of a Dining Services employee who offered his fake ID to be used during a training class.

“It was so ironic, because [the trainer] said ‘Does anyone have an ID?’ And [the student] provided his fake, and [the trainer] was saying how real some fakes can look, and she’s holding a fake in training class.”

But when the ID was scanned and put under black light, the fake “went right by” as a real ID.

Arai declined to name the student, fearing that his friend might lose his job at Dining Services and face disciplinary action.

Sophomore mechanical engineering major Devon Cogan, however, said that he has seen a difference in fan behavior this season.

“I did notice a ton of drunk people last year, and they were just done … but this year, I was in the third row, and I think a lot of the people tailgating come in later,” he said. “I didn’t notice that many drunk people.”

This is more in line with Mullineaux’s view that fan behavior has taken a positive turn in recent seasons.

If you go to a football game at Byrd Stadium this season, expect to pay $8 for a beer and to choose from local microbrews like Flying Dog or national brands like Coors and Miller. Have your ID ready and buy one beer at a time. Drink responsibly and you can contribute to about $500,000 venture in its pilot year.

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