Words & Deeds

Broncos’ alcohol policies put the BS in BSU

Beer taps at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha are open to the general public for the first time at the College World Series.
Beer taps at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha are open to the general public for the first time at the College World Series. AP

Shake your pom-poms for alcohol at college sporting events, or shake your fist against it. Either way, as decisions by the Idaho State Board of Education and Boise State University incessantly remind us, it’s no fun cheering for hypocrisy.

Meeting last week in Idaho Falls — where I’m not sure beer is even legal — the State Board rejected Boise State’s request to continue to allow pregame alcohol sales during the coming football season. The vote ends The Huddle, last year’s trial program inside Caven-Williams Sports Complex, where beer and wine were available until shortly before kickoff.

[Story: Vandals don’t have the OK for booze while tailgating.]

The message is clear, as always: It’s OK to have an adult beverage at a Bronco game if you’re wealthy and hanging out in a Stueckle Sky Center skybox. But it’s not OK if you’re an average Joe at otherwise dry Albertsons Stadium. It’s OK to serve alcohol at Taco Bell Arena when it’s an Imagine Dragons concert packed with teenagers. But it’s not OK if it’s a BSU basketball game.

It’s inconsistent. It’s hypocritical. It’s short-sighted. And none of it bodes well for the Broncos’ financial future.

College football games aren’t as enticing as they used to be. Frigid, hard bleachers. Limited replays. Pricey concessions. Many fans who tailgate at Bronco games never actually attend. They watch the game on their parking-lot flatscreens and eat nachos next to a propane heater.

In other states, universities are battling attendance declines by joining the 21st century. Beer and wine are being sold this week at the College World Series in Omaha, marking the first time that alcohol has been available to the general public at an NCAA championship.

The State Board’s decision is a frustrating reminder that Boise State — and the University of Idaho, which had its similar Fan Zone pilot program zapped at the Kibbie Dome — are trapped in the Prohibition era.

They’re doing it for our own safety, of course.

Is it a big deal that Caven-Williams is drying up? No. It was a forward-thinking first step, but it was hardly fighting for that extra yard when it came to a progressive alcohol policy. Many fans are too busy tailgating to care about Caven-Williams.

Besides, it was just another reminder that Boise State is as hypocritical as the State Board. The Huddle was touted as a family-friendly gathering spot, despite the fact it was the only place to buy beer. And Boise State obviously is thrilled to sell tailgating spots right outside the stadium, condoning alcohol use from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Meanwhile, the tailgating area recently was expanded across campus and into Julia Davis Park.

Athletic Director Curt Apsey told the Statesman last year that he is not a proponent of allowing alcohol in the general seating area. “I’m not sure it has a place in college football,” he said.

Apsey added that he doesn’t see a double standard in allowing alcohol in the Stueckle Sky Center but not in the rest of the stadium. Stueckle is “a built-in social event ...,” he said, “a place where people come to entertain clients ... a little different than being in the stadium ... a controlled environment.”

Pardon me, Judge Smails, while I translate using layman’s terms. Basically, if you aren’t a member of the country club, you can’t be trusted to sip a cold one while cheering for the Broncos.

Here’s BSU’s “safer” alternative. Thousands of fans trip all over themselves leaving the stadium at half time to go shotgun booze, then return in buzzed droves after the third quarter has started. It’s a nuisance for all the Boiseans who chose not to bail for that quick Fireball shot. And probably hilarious to watch while you’re holding up your cocktail in Stueckle and lording your superiority over the minions below.

An article at NCAA.org explains why alcohol is being sold at the College World Series: “Part of the impetus for the decision came from school reports that indicated once they started selling alcohol at events, alcohol-related incidents declined sharply. Theories suggest that making alcohol available in the stadium prevents incidents of binge drinking before events and discourages people from attempting to bring outside alcohol into the venue.”

Meanwhile, the State Board and Boise State insist on using theories from the 1920s and making exceptions that test the limits of logic.

It’s bull. There’s no other way to put it. Either ban alcohol or allow alcohol. Or carve out alcohol-free sections of the stadium for fans who find a cup of Budweiser unacceptable.

Boise State and the State Board have allowed money to dictate selective morality. But beer will triumph in the end. We haven’t even talked about its touchdown potential as a concessions revenue stream.

As more fans stay home, you have to wonder how much Boise State attendance will drop before that other shoe does.

Michael Deeds: 208-377-6407, @michaeldeeds