Universities want stronger alcohol policy during NCAA games

When the University hosts first- and second-round games for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship next year at the Metrodome, NCAA policy stipulates that alcohol can’t be served and all advertisements pertaining to alcohol must be covered up.

However, one campaign backed by 288 colleges and universities maintains that the NCAA’s alcohol policy isn’t strong enough, as it allows for a limited amount of alcohol advertising during competition and event telecasts.

The Rules of the Game

The following are highlights from the NCAA’s alcohol advertising policy, to which member institutions are encouraged to adhere:

ï Prohibit the sale of alcoholic beverages during all preseason, regular season, conference and postseason intercollegiate events. (Alcoholic beverages should not be sold or otherwise made available for public consumption in the athletics facility during intercollegiate athletics events.)

ï Prohibit on-site alcohol advertising during all preseason, regular season, conference and postseason intercollegiate events. (Except when expressly prohibited by prior contract, institutions should preclude advertising, banners, and signs of displays for liquor, beer, including nonalcoholic beer, or wine products. Any permanently affixed or leased advertising, banners, signs or displays in the facility, should be covered during the event.) u Prohibit media advertising of alcoholic beverages that exceed 6 percent alcohol by volume. (Immediately prior to, during and subsequent to televised competition, institutions should preclude media advertising of alcoholic beverages that exceed 6 percent alcohol by volume.)

ï Limit advertising of malt beverages, beer and wine products that do not exceed 6 percent alcohol by volume and include content that emphasizes legal use of alcohol. These advertisements could include tag lines such as “Drink Responsibly” and “Be Legal.” (Such advertisements should not compose more than 14 percent of the space in any game publications; not more than 60 seconds per hour of any telecast or broadcast or not more than 120 seconds total in any telecast or broadcast. Any such content should include an appropriate focus on legal and responsible use of alcohol.)

Jump Ball

Behind the endorsements of 288 colleges and universities, including the University of Minnesota, 10 conferences (not including the Big Ten), and more than 220 organizations, the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV wants the NCAA to eliminate all alcohol advertising on competition telecasts. On the other side of the issue, the NCAA says it will ask its board of directors and executive committee to review its alcohol policy, although in a recent letter sent to those requesting a change, NCAA President Myles Brand said, “It is difficult to take seriously the argument that eliminating 60 seconds of advertising during any televised hour of basketball championship competition will make any noticeable difference in the overall consumption of beer by students.”

Team “End all alcohol ads”

After the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship game earlier this month, more than 100 university presidents and athletics directors sent a letter to Brand requesting the NCAA’s alcohol policy be amended to include a ban on all alcohol advertisements on television. The letter states that recent research should “cast significant doubt about the effectiveness of the NCAA’s beer advertising limits and strongly suggest that beer advertising is embarrassingly prominent during the NCAA basketball tournament.”

Officials at the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV are also pushing for an end to the advertising, Tracy Downs, director for the campaign, said.

Research has shown the problems that alcohol can present, and everyone is aware of the problems, including the NCAA, she said.

Downs also said the allowance of beer advertising on television contradicts the NCAA’s other messages and that presidents and athletic directors across the country need to take a stand so that others will follow.

“It’s inconsistent with everything to be talking beer,” she said of the NCAA’s policy.

Team “60 seconds does nothing”

In response to the letter sent after the championship game, Brand responded with a letter of his own in which made clear that those making the policy decisions are the peers of those complaining.

The call for a change in policy will be passed on to the board of directors and executive committee, according to the letter. The committee reviewed the policy as recently as last year, with no presented proposal arising from discussion.

The letter also addresses the idea that simply focusing on the issue, which might not be a huge problem, could also lead to wasted resources and consequences.

“Binge drinking is an extraordinarily serious and complex problem and overly focusing on the narrow, symbolic scope of NCAA advertising policy can detract from directing attention to the importance of finding viable solutions,” the letter stated.

In also addressing claims made by the campaign that 270 seconds of alcohol ads were present throughout the championship game – which would be a violation of the NCAA’s policy – the letter explained that the NCAA conducted its own research and found otherwise.

The university’s play

Athletics Director Joel Maturi didn’t sign the letter sent to the NCAA, but the University is listed as one of the Division I schools that has signed a pledge with the campaign to eliminate alcohol advertisements from college sports. In terms of media the University can control, such as signage and radio rights they own, the University does not allow any alcohol ads, Tom Wistrcill, associate athletics director, said. Although he noted that the decision on such policies is an institution-to-instition choice, athletics officials felt that alcohol ads don’t send a good message about Gophers sports, Wistrcill said.

“We’ve made our decision based on what’s best for Minnesota,” he said. Despite the athletics department’s stance, it can’t control what ads are shown when its teams appear on channels such as FSN North, and ESPN, Wistrcill added.