Passions at football games in Darrell K. Royal–Texas Memorial Stadium may not run as high as they did during the UT/A&M rivalry—especially since the Red River Showdown takes place in Dallas—but they could run higher if new UT president Greg Fenves gets his way. While beer sales are allowed at other University of Texas athletics events, Longhorn football games are currently dry zones (well, at least inside the stadium—the tailgating is a different story). But that’s something that Fenves would like to see change.
In his first news conference, Fenves said school officials have studied beer sales and found no security problems at other events.
The plan would still need approval by University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, and would likely be voted on by the board of regents. McRaven’s predecessor, Francisco Cigarroa, had opposed beer sales.
In this, Fenves isn’t breaking from his predecessor—Bill Powers also supported beer sales—but with McRaven in place, there’s a possibility that the time for beer at Darrell K. Royal Stadium will come.
Right now, there are 21 on-campus college football stadiums that sell beer during games, and 20 percent of them are in Texas—the University of Houston, UNT, SMU, and UT–El Paso all sell beer—but hookin’ ‘em with beer sales in Austin would be a major shift in the role of beer in college football. (Right now, the largest program that sells beer is West Virginia.)
It would also come at a curious time, given the recent passage of campus carry in the Texas Legislature. While the stadium—which was exempt from concealed carry laws—isn’t subject to the new law, the areas outside of the stadium are, and beer plus football passions plus handguns are three great tastes that could come together to make for the occasional tense encounter on the forty acres.
But beyond the questions about any potential unintended consequences that may occur if the two high-profile rules around guns and beer were to change around the same time, the substantial question that remains is: Does it really make sense to ban beer sales at college football games?
ESPN investigated the trend at the start of the 2014 season, when those 21 early adopters offered some data to look at. And what they found was encouraging for proponents of alcohol sales on campuses (a group which includes anybody who’d like to see schools raise additional revenue):
Most schools continue to keep alcohol restricted to premium seating areas, if they allow it at all. But offering alcohol is increasingly attractive for some campuses, especially as schools look for ways to keep fans from staying at home.
They’re also encouraged by the schools that were among the first to sell alcohol and didn’t report an increase in bad behavior from students and other fans.
Ultimately, whether this happens—and what the impact might be if it does—remains to be seen. But if you have drinking-age students, a place where drinking normally makes sense, and the need to bring in more money (always), it seems like the shift toward allowing beer sales, whether its tipping point is at UT, or elsewhere—is coming.