As easy as it is to hate on Athletic Director Dave Brandon, the man deserves praise when he makes the rare correct decision — even when it’s completely obvious to the rest of us.
On Monday, Brandon announced that the University would continue abstaining from serving alcohol at Michigan Stadium during home football games, both for safety reasons and the logistical nightmare that would ensue.
Though Brandon and the University likely never intended to sell alcohol at Michigan sporting events — especially to non-suite and club-level patrons — the issue came to a head when the NHL’s Winter Classic on Jan. 1 received permission from the University’s Board of Regents, and through a special motion in the state legislature, to serve beer in Michigan Stadium. College stadiums across the country sell alcohol to fans in “premium seating,” but few provide the same for general admission ticketholders. At the same time, however, both numbers are growing.
Anyone that’s attended an NFL game sober in the last decade can tell you Brandon’s decision is the right move.
Long before NFL teams faced declining ticket sales resulting from the proliferation of high-def television, fantasy football and all the headaches associated with attending games — not to mention the rising cost of everything from tickets, to concessions, to parking — drunken assholes have kept fans interested in, you know, just watching football at bay for years. Now, the NFL’s doing everything it can to “enhance” the in-stadium experience, including planning to offer free Wi-Fi at all 32 NFL arenas.
Everyone has their own personal anecdotes displaying repulsive NFL fan behavior. Individually they prove nothing, so I’ll refrain from sharing mine. You’re welcome, Cleveland Browns fan that dumped a beer on me, an opposing 16-year-old Lions fan in the Cleveland Browns Stadium, demonstrating the most appropriate use of a $7 Miller Lite.
Of course, Brandon’s choice will hardly prevent fans from continuing the long-standing tradition of getting hammered before games or sneaking alcohol in, but selling alcohol would almost certainly increase the number of negative “incidents” within the stadium. Contrarians like to cite the reported decrease in police arrests, calls and charges following West Virginia University’s allowance of beer sales during the 2011 football season. But, I question the role of simultaneous increases in security at football games, or the newly enacted policy preventing fans from leaving the stadium to drink in the parking lot before reentering the stadium — a practice that’s been disallowed at Michigan for years.
Not to mention profits have been smaller than you might think at some other Big Ten schools. Minnesota actually reported a loss of $16,000 from alcohol sales for the 2012-2013 season.
Combine Brandon’s declaration Tuesday with last week’s announcement regarding the new student ticket policy at home football games — effectively a mea culpa for the failed general admission experiment — and Brandon is on a roll.
Though both decisions are fairly obvious steps forward to the rest of us, given Brandon’s penchant for imbibing in unnecessary, profit-motivated behavior at the expense of fan and student welfare, even small victories are worth celebrating. Maybe with a few more common sense judgments we can declare that Brandon’s on his own pathway to reform.
Alexander Hermann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.