Athletic programs at two major universities recently made headlines regarding the sale of alcohol — and not just during games.
Rutgers Athletics announced that it will expand beer and wine sales at department-managed venues beginning this fall, in an effort to offset scholarship costs. More than 600 Rutgers student-athletes receive $16 million annually.
“This decision was the result of a year-long review of the experience and data from across the college landscape,” Pat Hobbs, Rutgers director of athletics, said in a statement. “Universities have seen a dramatic drop in alcohol-related incidents on game day by providing a controlled environment for beer and wine sales. We will work closely with [Rutgers University Police Department] to achieve similar results at Rutgers.”
Rutgers currently serves alcohol at premium seating locations at HighPoint.com Stadium and in hospitality areas at the Rutgers Athletics Center (RAC). The expansion will include general seating areas for events at HighPoint.com Stadium, the RAC, Yurcak Field, and baseball and softball games.
“This is part of a broader effort to improve the overall fan experience in the years ahead,” Hobbs said. “We want our venues to be the destination for our fans here in New Jersey and across the New York metropolitan area.”
As Rutgers officials noted, Division I universities are permitting alcohol sales with greater frequency inside their athletics venues. A recent peer review revealed that 51 of the 129 NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision programs allowed in-stadium alcohol sales to the general public. Last year, the NCAA Executive Council approved alcohol sales at NCAA Championship events.
That said, the move appeared to have caught off-guard local officials in Piscataway Township — where Rutgers’ athletic events are held.
“Very surprised,” Tim Dacey, Piscataway’s business administrator, told local media, citing the increased safety risk in the community. “Everybody that leaves the [Rutgers Athletic Center] or leaves the stadium winds up on a road in Piscataway.”
Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler expressed his dismay in a statement, claiming no one in his administration “agreed to let the university open up a 52,000-seat bar.’’
“Data from peer institutions shows a correlation between a decrease in alcohol-related incidents when a venue provides a controlled environment for beer and wine sales,” counteredRutgers University Chief of Police Kenneth Cop. “The RUPD will continue to be vigorous in working with Rutgers Athletics to promote public safety at athletic events and expects attendees to respect all applicable laws to ensure a safe and enjoyable game day experience.”
Meanwhile, a beer officially licensed by New Mexico State University has become a local favorite. Launched in August 2017, Pistol Pete’s 1888 Ale — named after the Aggie mascot and the year NMSU was founded — is one of the few beers in the country connected to a university.
Sold at games and in local restaurants, bars and grocery stores, Pistol Pete’s 1888 generates dollars for NMSU athletic programs, and it has won awards both for its taste and its can design (which features the Aggie fight song and school colors).
“The potential for revenue is higher than, let’s say a T-shirt or a polo,” Mario Moccia, NMSU director of athletics, told KTSM.com, citing the beer’s consumable factor. “You’re constantly buying or drinking a beer, and you’re buying more of those.”
Pistol Pete’s 1888 is made by New Mexico-based Bosque Brewing Co., which is owned by NMSU alumni. Managers at the Las Cruces location told KTSM it’s one of the most popular beers customers order.