Dry Up Alcohol Problems in College Sports?

A recent USA Today report says the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) has begun a broad review of its policies on alcohol.

The NCAA, a voluntary association of some 1,200 institutions, conferences, organizations, and individuals, organizes the athletics programs of many colleges and universities throughout the United States. And according to the USA Today article, the Division I Board of Directors, the Association's top rules-making body, is reassessing alcohol-related policies on everything from advertising guidelines to the allowance of stadium and arena beer sales at local, conference, and national levels.

Dr. Henry Wechsler is director of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Studies Program. He says that unfortunately, recent tragedies have caused the NCAA to reconsider its policies, and policy decisions are driven by money. “But at least some good can come of this,” he contends, “if the NCAA really does reconsider its policies and its close ties to the alcohol industry.”

The problem, Wechsler says, is not simply the sale of alcohol at university stadiums and other sports venues. It is also the NCAA's long reinforcement of an association between college athletics and alcohol and, he asserts, “it's also the joint advertising with beer companies.”

A New Jersey jury recently decided that a Giants Stadium concessionaire should be held liable for millions in damages in a drunken-driving case. Wechsler notes that the NCAA review of its alcohol-related policies comes in the wake of that court decision; however, he doubts schools will abandon alcohol advertising and sales at their sporting events.

“Schools tend to have an alcohol problem,” the Harvard researcher says, “especially if they depend on money from the industry. It's going to be a large source of revenue to give up, and that may drive many schools not to want to make a complete cut from the industry.”

According to Wechsler, schools have to realize that intercollegiate athletics programs are one of the major centers of binge drinking on college campuses. He feels if the NCAA is to make a sincere effort to address its alcohol-related policy issues, the organization needs to stop sending college students the message that beer is an integral part of sports and college life.

(This article courtesy of Agape Press).

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