WVU president supports quest for football beer sales

| Thursday, April 14, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck admitted that selling beer in the stands during football games in hopes of improving fan behavior is unconventional.

But he has the university president's blessing to proceed in his quest.

West Virginia president James P. Clements told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on Wednesday that he supported Luck and complimented the first-year athletic director for presenting a "very detailed and strong" plan to the university's Board of Governors.

Clements would not say whether he supported alcohol sales at football games at Milan Puskar Stadium.

Luck maintained that such a measure would help eliminate alcohol abuse on game days.

"Just like a lot of things in life, there is some counter-intuition involved," Luck told the Trib. "We looked at all the things that we were doing out there and said to ourselves, 'How can we improve the atmosphere and improve the civility of the fans?' "

Luck gave his proposal to the Board of Governors on Friday. The proposal included controlled sales of alcohol, the elimination of a pass-out policy that allows fans to leave the game at halftime and re-enter the stadium for the second half, and banning smoking inside the stadium. The first change would need Board of Governors approval; the last two are athletic department policies.

"The issue is about control. Right now we don't control it," Luck said. "You can never control what happens out there at tailgates because there are a lot of people there. But if you put this into place, you are able to enforce so much more control than we have had previously."

The policy change is in a 30-day comment period. The Board of Governors could vote on the measure at its June 3 meeting.

"I'm curious to see what comments come in, but the presentation that I saw was very strong and made a lot of good sense," Clements said. "We've got a very smart athletic director, and if he thinks this is good for the program, it will improve the fan experience."

Luck did not say how much money the athletic department would make from beer sales but didn't deny that it could reach as much as $1.2 million a year.

Five Big East football-playing members — Syracuse, Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut and Cincinnati — allow alcohol sales in the stands, according to their websites. West Virginia allows alcohol only in luxury suites. So does Pitt.

Christopher Confalone, a senior majoring in political science, remained skeptical.

"Given that the university already has an issue in dealing with negative fan behavior," he said, "I shudder to think what could happen if fans are allowed to buy alcohol, given the effects that alcohol has on a person's judgment and decision-making."

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