In an effort to cut down on excessive drinking before football games, two Big Ten schools are implementing probationary programs for students who are ejected from games because of drunkenness.
But the University of Michigan doesn’t plan to implement a similar program any time soon.
The Show and Blow program at the University of Wisconsin allows students who have been ejected from a game due to excessive drinking to attend future games if they take a breathalyzer test prior to kickoff. The University of Minnesota began a similar program this year called Check BAC.
Mary Jo Desprez, alcohol and other drug policy and prevention administrator, said University of Michigan officials don’t have any plans to implement a similar program, adding that managing incidents of excessive alcohol consumption can be difficult given the number of other activities and demands at football games.
“Alcohol issues, especially on a Football Saturday, can really be a tremendous issue to manage,” Desprez said. “I think it’s even more so for people who have a really negative experience inside the stadium.”
At the same time, Desprez stressed that if the University were to implement a similar program, it would not just duplicate another program, but rather it would create something specifically designed for the University’s community and its needs.
“Whatever strategies we use, they must be effective for our own community,” she said. “We can’t just take another program, we need to think in terms of our community.”
Currently, there is no blanket policy for what happens to season ticket holders when they’re ejected from the Big House for excessive drinking.
DPS spokeswoman Diane Brown said the Athletic Department makes the decision of how to handle cases of excessive drinking and DPS treats the cases like it would any other alcohol-related incident on campus.
“DPS only deals with the legal issues just like an alcohol infraction anywhere on campus,” Brown said. “Athletics addresses any potential other consequences.”
During the 2009 football season, 30 University students were ejected for alcohol-related issues, according to Brown.
“This includes those who were arrested, issued a citation or court summons or simply ejected,” Brown said. “In all 30 instances, the students were ejected from that football game.”
However, the Athletic Department does not currently have a procedure for handling ejections due to excessive drinking.
“We do not have any sanctions on students removed from the stadium,” said Michael Stevenson, executive associate director of athletics.
Desprez said before a program like Check BAC or Show and Blow could be implemented at the University, it would first be important to gather large amounts of input from all affected parties.
“We don’t have anything instituted that involves the breathalyzer,” she said. “One of the most important things to do before we start any type of program is to get all the stakeholders around the table and see what it would do for this community.”
According to Desprez, stakeholders include the Department of Public Safety, the Athletic Department, Alcohol and Drug Prevention, students and season ticket holders.
Though the University of Michigan has no plans to implement a probationary program, Show and Blow has been a success, school officials said, and is currently in its third year of operations. The program was piloted during the 2005-2006 school year and had about 77 students participate this past season.
“The easy thing to do is to tell kids they can’t go to many games, and it would have been a fair consequence,” said Ervin Cox, director of student assistance judicial affairs at Wisconsin. “But we decided we wanted to let them come back, but they had to be sober if they wanted to.”
“The students that have gone through the program think it’s fair,” Cox said. “Other students think that if they can’t drink for a football game, it ruins their Saturdays, but our response is that if they can’t go through a Saturday without drinking, they probably need to seek help.”
However, Cox said many students drink rather than attending the football games to avoid being on the Show and Blow list.
“Our student section is only half full at kickoff. We have a bad culture here that Saturdays are about drinking and partying rather than watching football,” Cox said. “Kids who do come at halftime leave by the end of the quarter to go party after.”
But Cox said the program has a positive impact overall.
“Most students don’t like kids who are stumbling and puking all over the student section. Our goal is to send a message about a second chance that you can enjoy a game without drinking and that you don’t really want to get on that list in the first place,” he said.
The University of Minnesota implemented Check BAC at the start of this season along with their new football stadium.
Students are made aware of the consequences of showing up to a game excessively drunk when they sign the “Golden Gophers make Golden Choices” fan code of conduct.
“We don’t go looking for kids but if someone can’t walk, is throwing up or is visibly drunk, the cops will approach them,” said Amy Barsness, associate director of the student conduct and academic integrity at the University of Minnesota.
If a student gets ejected and tries to enter the next game without taking a breathalyzer, Barsness said her office is made aware of the situation through the computerized ticket system and the student’s season package is then revoked.
“We’ve had a high turnaround rate,” Barsness said. “Most kids come back. They’re happy they have a second chance to go. At the beginning we had people concerned about it, but now people understand that we want (students) to soberly enjoy the game. Students are on board with that.”