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Should The Big Ten Sell Alcohol At Hoops Games?

Our staff debates whether the Big Ten should sell alcohol during games.

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few years, one of the more intriguing topics for fans has been whether the Big Ten and its respective members should allow alcohol to be sold during games. Whether limited or not, it’s an idea that has received mixed reviews from fans.

So in light of this issue, two members of the BTPowerhouse staff (Thomas Beindit and Jerome Scherwin) sat down and discussed some of the potential pros and cons of this move.

Here’s the discussion:

Should The Big Ten Sell Alcohol During Games?

Thomas Beindit: Let’s start off with the obvious. Regardless of what athletic departments and schools say about the positives that can come out of selling alcohol at Big Ten basketball games, the first, and most significant thing is that the schools are going to make a ton of money from this. After all, any sporting event is going to charge an insane amount for any drink and there’s no reason to think the Big Ten would be any different.

So my question to you is whether this is something we (as fans) should want from the conference?

Jerome Scherwin Jr.: I’m torn. That naive and innocent kid in me that started the Hawks Nest wants college athletics -- and in this case, college basketball -- to stay as pure as possible. The thought of The Krush or the Paint Crew shotgunning beers in the stands frightens me in so many ways (both good and bad).

BUT, the old man in me, that now actually sits in the seats and relaxes during games, would love to spend $9.50 on a 12oz Bud Light instead of a Diet Pepsi. I think the majority of fans in our current stage in life would love to have the option to indulge in a couple of alcoholic beverages. I think students would as well. So I ask you Thomas, is this something the conference should want from it’s fans, which includes the student body?

Beindit: Yeah, I’m like you on this one. I’m mixed. The idea of the athletic department bringing in some extra cash while also potentially reducing binge drinking (there’s a decent amount of research indicating as much) seem like positive things. But I agree, the idea of college students drinking in the stands just seems . . . weird.

Admittedly, some will say it’s weird just because it hasn’t been done historically by schools, but the issue for me is that it just feels corporate. I’m sure a lot of pro fans read this site along with college fans, but to me, the thing that makes college sports so special is that it’s just so much purer than its pro counterparts.

I love the traditions, I love the energy, and I love the passion. Any move you make that’s going to make the games feel more like an NBA or an NFL game just seems like a miscalculation in my book.

But Jerome, do you agree with me? Are you on team anti-corporations?

Scherwin Jr.: Do you mean anti-corporation like this?

Beindit: Yes. That is exactly what I meant.

Scherwin Jr.: I thought so. Hawkeye fans have been lifting that rolled up piece of tin foil for years now. And we kind of love it. Actually, we love it a lot. When Todd Lickliter was “coaching” a couple of years back, the thousand or so Iowa fans that actually went to the games only got rowdy for two things: The already mentioned Panchero’s Burrito Lift and some sort of HyVee sponsored t-shirt giveaway.

Sponsorship by major corporations is where we’ve been going for a long time in college athletics. It’s where the big money is and it’s a big part of the “pay for play” movement. I know I don’t need to go through the list of Bowl Game sponsors (Duck Dynasty Uber Duck Commander Ford Trucks Bowl, what up?) or even the list of the Early Season basketball tournaments either (Hello Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic). I also don’t need to remind you of the NUMEROUS Barbasol commercials we all are subject to during whatever sporting event you’re watching on BTN.

There’s no stopping this runaway train. And I suppose I’m ok with that.

My worry is monitoring the consumption of the actual alcohol. How do these arenas/athletic departments prevent underage kids from chugging the booze their older frat brothers buy for them while they’re in the game? What about the guy or gal that wins front row tickets from his work and gets a little too intoxicated on Barcardi Rum Runners?

Obviously, tailgating is a big part of the college sports experience, but usually when you’re in the arena, things sober down. Are we all playing with fire if we allow all fans to keep that buzz going? Is that something we REALLY want in college athletics? Or are we doomed for more Marcus Smart situations?

Beindit: Those are all fair points and maybe I’ve relegated myself to pretending we still live in the 1950s or something, but I dunno. I mean, corporate involvement doesn’t necessarily always bother me too much. To me, it’s more about how it’s done. Not just the fact that it’s done.

Again, maybe it’s just me being naive, but I just feel like there should be some aspects of a college game that are unique to college and not simply a reflection of the NBA or NFL. Like having a band, a student section, and generally, avoiding things like alcohol in the stands.

Obviously, I’m making an argument that seems dated for some, but I feel like college games have a much, much different feel than pro games. Maybe selling alcohol doesn’t change that, but it makes me worry. We’ve already taken a slew of changes “pro-izing” our college games and another step seems like too much for me.

And yeah, I think you do have to worry about the issues you brought up above. How many drunk 40 to 60 year-old guys do we want in the stands? I mean, NFL games are basically just a four-hour brawl in the stands, right? Do we want to add that to college games too?

Scherwin Jr.: Again, I’m torn by selfish reasons (I just want to sip a couple of Bud Lights and mind my own business) but I’m an optimist at heart and out of all of the MLB, NFL, NBA, PGA and MLS games/events that take place every year, how often do we actually see or hear of those terrible, no good incidents? It’s not as much as you would think, right?

Beindit: Terrible incidents? Not that often, but for me, it’s not arrests or actual physical altercations. It’s just the drunk and over the top fans that ruin the experience. I’m not saying the crowd at Big Ten games needs to be equivalent to a church, but there’s a reason why like 90 percent of fights occur after someone has been drinking.

Again, this could just be me, but is the extra cash and slight boost in enjoyment for some fans worth the negative side-effects that come with it? Maybe for some programs, but as a conference, I think the Big Ten already has an excellent game day experience without alcohol. I feel like you’re risking that (and plenty of other things) just for a few bucks and so some fans are a little happier. But either way, at this point we’re probably going in circles, so I’ll leave it to the readers.

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So, should the Big Ten offer alcohol drinks as a conference at basketball games? Let us know in the comments below.