Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Drunken Animals (Gophers and Badgers)

Five years ago, after a barrage of complaints about drunken college kids making the game-day experience miserable for other fans, the UW instituted the “Show and Blow” policy. Essentially, it means if you get tossed out of the game for being obnoxiously drunk - and 135 UW students did last year - you have to pass a breathalyzer test before they’ll let you into the stadium for the next game.

Now, with its brand new stadium, the University of Minnesota has taken a page from the UW playbook and has instituted a “Check BAC” program. It’s pretty much the same policy as the UW’s. Get kicked out for drunken rowdiness, and you have to pass a breathalyzer test at the gate before you can come to the next game.

Nobody keeps track officially, but it’s believed the UW and the U of M are the only two schools in the nation with such a policy.

The young revelers aren’t getting blitzed on 7-dollar beers in the stands. Neither school sells alcoholic beverages at its football games, although reliable estimates indicate they could each put another million dollars a year on the bottom line if they did. The college kids get schnockered at house parties or tailgate parties before the game.

The amusing traditions and idiosyncrasies of game-day behavior are a big part of what gives collegiate football its color and appeal. The “jump around” at the end of the third quarter - which has actually only been around since the Purdue game in 1998 - is one of those colorful things. The fifth quarter, which goes back to my college days, started in the late 60’s after the Badgers had lost two dozen games in a row, and they tried to bring some enthusiasm back to Camp Randall Stadium. (It wasn’t officially named “The Fifth Quarter” until 1978, though.)

But at some point in the maturation process, boorishly drunken behavior loses its appeal, particularly when you’re paying what you pay today to go to a Badgers football game. Student tickets are reasonably priced, but if you’re an adult paying the freight for a season ticket package, you’re talking big bucks.

If you’re a season ticket holder, the price printed on your game tickets has little to do with the actual cost. There’s the fee to apply for a seat license, the seat license fee, the fee to apply for season tickets, the season ticket fee, the fee to apply for parking, the parking fee, and then there’s the ticket cost and the parking cost, if you’re lucky enough to get UW parking. Otherwise you pay 20 bucks to somebody in the Regent Neighborhood to park on their lawn.

Add it all up, and it’s an expensive ticket. And those who can afford it don’t see the humor in some drunken college kid giving you a “used beer shower” by puking all over your nifty new red-and-white-gameday-garb. Even the tolerance for the obscene chant in the student sections (eat s***, f*** you) is wearing thinner each year.

Given the cost structure of today’s NCAA Division-One football programs, and the tight economic times, the people in charge of marketing those programs and selling tickets are keenly aware their revenue base is not college students.
They may not be able to change attitudes about drinking by instituting these “Show and Blow” or “Check BAC” programs, but they’re sure taking steps to change behavior.


  1. The Jump Around is a good stress test for the stadium. Failure had better not be an option.

    Has the band ever struck up the Beer Barrel Polka? If so, what happened?

  2. There was an incident (in the late 70s or early 80s, I believe) when the band played "You've Said It All" during a game to fire up the Badgers (who eventually came back, won the game and presented the game ball to Mike Leckrone). The university banned them from playing it during games after that, because all of the polka-dancing fans caused the upper deck to sway ominously. I'm guessing the Beer Barrel Polka is also right out.