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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Alcohol ads would add revenue, do no harm”

    Cameron Jonesstaff writer
    Cameron Jones
    staff writer

    The University of Arizona is eschewing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an era of unprecedented budget shortfalls and tuition hikes.

    The reason: The UA athletics department has a strict policy in place restricting the sale of alcohol at campus sporting events and does not allow alcohol companies to advertise in any of its arenas or stadiums.

    “”Our values are such that we’re not going to sell our souls for the almighty dollar,”” said Jim Livengood, UA athletic director.

    But as the financial crisis across campus worsens, it can be questioned whether that policy needs to be re-evaluated, especially given the fact that so much money would be available should the university decide to go in that direction.

    For example, Pacific 10 Conference rival USC stopped selling alcohol at football games before the 2005 season, but in 2004 the school made more than $700,000 from alcohol sales.

    There are 18 Division I colleges that allow the sale of alcohol on their campuses at athletic events.

    Because fans are going to drink beforehand, either at home or while tailgating, not selling alcohol on campus effectively cuts the university out of a very profitable market.

    Arizona is essentially diverting those customers and their money to the convenience stores and supermarkets around the school.

    The administration appears steadfast in its stance against selling alcohol at games, despite the potential profits.

    “”I think it’s so inappropriate to have a university in the business of selling alcohol that I just can’t see that happening,”” UA President Robert Shelton said.

    The school’s policy prohibits the use of university funds to purchase alcoholic beverages. If the school can’t buy alcohol, then it can’t sell it at athletic events, so any change in mindset would first require a change in policy.

    But given the university’s financial woes, a model similar to that of the University of Missouri’s with Anheuser-Busch or the University of Wisconsin’s with both Miller and Busch could strike a reasonable balance.

    Missouri receives $490,000 a year from Anheuser-Busch, while Miller and Busch pay Wisconsin a combined total of $450,000 annually to advertise on its campus.

    Similarly, the University of Colorado receives $392,000 a year from Coors Brewing Co. The school’s 11,000-seat basketball arena also bears the Coors name, thanks to a $5 million gift from the company.

    Of those schools, only Colorado allows the sale of alcohol on its campus. Missouri and Wisconsin allow alcohol companies to advertise but not distribute.

    Such relationships aren’t unprecedented in college athletics, so why doesn’t Arizona have one?

    The school’s policy on alcohol states that advertising and sponsorships from alcoholic beverage distributors are acceptable, but no reference to the alcoholic product is permitted, thus eliminating any incentive for those companies to advertise, said Scott MacKenzie, the assistant athletics director for marketing and corporate sales at UA.

    That means Golden Eagle Distributing Corporation could advertise without making any reference to Anheuser-Busch, the company to which Golden Eagle distributes alcohol.

    Also, the fact that the Pac-10 allows alcohol companies to advertise during radio broadcasts of UA sporting events can send a mixed message to students. Furthermore, a large percentage of fans at Arizona sporting events have no affiliation to the university.

    The substantial number of fans with gray hair inside McKale Center on game days indicates that the school could allow alcohol companies to advertise without being accused of targeting students.

    From a financial standpoint, those restrictions seem to be the only thing in the way of very large profits for the university.

    “”If those rules ever changed, there would certainly be several beer companies at the table,”” said MacKenzie.

    Shelton, for his part, does not dismiss the idea of one day entering into a partnership with an alcoholic beverage company.

    “”I would be open to a discussion,”” he said, “”but again, policy would dictate the type of ad that you would have.””

    And if that policy were to change?

    “”The key is finding the right partner and making sure that your own, our own, policies and principles aren’t compromised,”” Shelton said. “”And when alcohol is involved, you have just a few extra things to think about.””

    But that is a gray area the university would prefer not to enter.

    Shelton mentioned that although universities have been successful in changing the less-than-desirable traits of their sponsors in the past – Nike’s labor practices in Asia, for example – this is a different situation.

    The issue with alcohol companies isn’t how they make their product, he said; it is the product itself.

    “”I would rather look other places than alcohol,”” Shelton said. “”I’m not a puritan. I enjoy a glass of wine, but I just think that there are so many more potential sponsors that fit well with the goals of the university.””

    If the university was completely against alcohol that would be one thing, it should not compromise its values for a few dollars.

    But Pandora’s Box is already open, as alcohol is everywhere during UA tailgating festivities. This is college, so throwing up a few signs in an already alcohol-rich environment is not going to cause any extra damage.

    The school could certainly use the money, and selling just advertisements, not alcohol, is a compromise that could help meet some of the school’s needs financially while still maintaining the university’s image. The university should not underestimate the maturity of its students.

    Taking some easy money is the route to go. Students can deal with a sign telling them something they already see everywhere else.

    Cameron Jones is a journalism sophomore. He can be reached at

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