Schools eye beer sales for help

"Now these people will realize they can get one in the stadium and they don't need that last beer at the tailgate," Ross said.

Selling alcohol at college football games might seem counterintuitive at a time when there is so much concern about binge drinking on campuses. Mothers Against Drunk Driving national president Jan Withers said her organization opposes any alcohol in a college environment because most of the students are under 21.

"Kids are watching adults all the time," Withers said. "If they see the only way to have fun is to drink a lot, then they're going to model after that. That's not the message we want to be sending to them."

SMU reported no change in crowd behavior after alcohol was introduced at basketball games last season, even with Mustangs seeing huge gains in attendance. The average of 5,653 -- the highest since 1984-85 -- was up 64 percent over 2012-13.

SMU student body president Ramon Trespalacios said having beer available could boost football attendance, too. The Mustangs drew an average of 18,724 to their 32,000-seat stadium last season, a drop of 12 percent from 2012 and the lowest since 2008.

"Sometimes if you wanted to go to a game and were used to drinking beer, people chose to go to a bar instead of the venue," said Trespalacios, a 22-year-old graduate student. "It's good to bring everyone together and enjoy the same environment."

Still, just a handful of college stadiums are giving students and fans the chance to buy a brew. Most remain opposed to it. The Southeastern Conference and the 23-school California State University system, for example, have policies banning alcohol from general seating areas.

"I know why the question is relevant for some," Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst said. "For me, the bottom line does matter. But at what point does it outweigh what you're trying to do, trying to keep the civility?"

Safeguards are used in an effort to keep drinking under control. A fan who wants to drink must obtain and wear a wristband indicating he or she is at least 21. Fans are limited to buying two beers at a time, and sales are cut off at halftime or in the third quarter.

Using an oft-repeated sports marketing catchphrase, Akron athletic director Tom Wistrcill said offering beer is a way to "enhance the fan experience."

"You do it because, yeah, we want to make some money on it," Wistrcill said. "But in this day and age, we're going to fight the 60-inch high-def TV since every game is available on an ESPN broadcast or on the high-quality Internet. How do we keep people coming to the stadium for the in-stadium experience?"

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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