About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy Terms of Use
Best Quotes
Guest Commentary
Who Am I?
Monthly Archives

July 24, 2004

Building A Case Against Campus Beer Promotions

FROM THE FALLOUT OF ALCOHOL-FUELED COLLEGE ATHLETICS SCANDALS comes a particularly nettlesome controversy in the making.

The University of Colorado has earned the dubious distinction of being the bull’s-eye for a motley raft of reformers, disparagers and neo-prohibitionists.

Dubbed the “Number One Party School” by the Princeton Review in 2003, CU has been further sullied by unseemly football recruiting excesses featuring alcohol and sex.

All this against a backdrop of near epidemic binge drinking on campuses coast to coast.

Statistics recently released by the Center for Science in the Public Interest state that more than 1400 college students die each year from alcohol-related injuries. Also, 500,000 students are injured under the influence of alcohol each year and more than 70,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape.

By straddling both sides of the issue, college athletics programs have been heaved thick in the middle of an unfolding controversy. On the one hand, colleges coast to coast are being buffeted by problem drinking and all its attendant ills.

On the other hand, college athletics departments have not been shy about accepting money from beer companies. In one year alone (2002) the alcohol beverage industry spent $58 million on college sports broadcasts, according to the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (www.cspinet.org).

However, the beer industry has correctly pointed out that the great majority (up around 70-80%) of college sports media consumers are over 21. It is no surprise that a murky pall has developed from this association of beer and college.

A glaring case in point has been the enormous generosity—to the tune of $8.5 million over the last thirty years—of the Adolph Coors Foundation to the University of Colorado. The private foundation is a separate entity from the Coors Brewing Company, with no financial connection whatsoever.

However, the public perception has consistently been that the brewery has been the benefactor, and that it has been brazenly promoting its brand name to young, impressionable (and largely underage) students.

It’s all perception.

Sticking out like a sore thumb—and likewise sticking in the craw of anti-alcohol activists—is the Coors Event Center, CU’s big time on-campus arena. While it is indeed named after the Adolph Coors Foundation, it also conveniently shares its name with the brewery’s lead brands.

But this all might be much ado about the wrong things. A recent Harvard study has found that the incidence of heavy drinking is largely predicated upon on the proximity of alcohol outlets to campus-bound students. Thus, the banning of advertising, promotion, signage and building names might have only a limited effect.

CU-Boulder was one of eight campuses surveyed as part of the Harvard study. The researchers found no less than 60 alcohol outlets within a one mile radius of the campus, which was the highest concentration in the study.

The reality is that the alcohol consumption problem is a reflection of larger societal trends. It is not limited to the sphere of college athletics.

Barbara Bintliff, chair of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, hit the sweet spot in a quote to the Colorado Daily last month when she said, “The alcohol problem is not isolated to athletics - it's in every department, every school, every dorm, every apartment in this town. But to some extent, that's what college students do. They're on their own and learning how to interact socially ... so they go out and drink.”

More later . . .

(this 557 word excerpt—with attendant commentary—has been distilled from a 1410 word article in the Colorado Daily of 7-13-04 and 420 word press release from the Center For Science In The Public Interest, issued on 7-22-04)