Friday, September 18, 2009 Updated: September 19, 4:39 PM ET
Alcohol-related rowdiness spawns tests
MINNEAPOLIS -- Students who get kicked out of a University of Minnesota football game for drunken rowdiness won't be allowed back next time unless they pass an alcohol breath test at the gate -- one of the most extreme attempts yet by colleges to curb misbehavior in the stands.
The new Check BAC policy applies to the 10,000 student season-ticket holders and is modeled after a program started five years ago at the University of Wisconsin.
It is aimed primarily at fans who get blitzed at tailgate parties before entering the Golden Gophers' brand-new TCF Bank Stadium. The sale and possession of alcohol are banned at the 50,000-seat stadium, unlike the team's former home, the Metrodome, which is off campus and not owned by the school.
With the opening of TCF Bank Stadium on the Minnesota campus came stricter policies aimed at reducing excessive, drunken behavior.
"If people come in with a buzz on -- there will be tailgating -- that's fine as long as their behavior doesn't interfere with those around them," said Jerry Reinhart, Minnesota vice provost for student affairs. "Then there will be trouble."
The policy has drawn few complaints from fans.
Patrick Day, a junior who skipped tailgating at the home opener last Saturday to get in line for a good seat in the unreserved student section, said: "I think if you're terrible and puking, then are you really enjoying the game? I've been puked on before. You know, that's just not necessary."
Nine people were ejected during the first game, and one drunken fan was taken from a tailgating lot to detox. Seven of those 10 were students who must now pass a breath test to attend future games. The number of students kicked out Saturday was about the same as usual, the university police department said.
Minnesota drew up its policy after disturbances at other college stadiums and a pair of riots that broke out on its own campus after the Gophers won national hockey championships in 2002 and 2003. The 2003 riot caused more than $150,000 in damage.
Student season-ticket holders who get ejected from one game and want to attend another must go through a special gate where a breath test is administered. If they enter through a regular gate, they will get caught afterward when officials compare the database of used tickets to that of Check BAC students. (BAC stands for blood-alcohol content.)
Students under the drinking age of 21 must test completely clean to enter the stadium. Students 21 or older have to be below 0.08 percent, the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
The decision to go dry at the new stadium is expected to cost the university about $1 million this year in lost revenue from the sale of suites and other premium seats, along with other costs, officials said.
The NCAA does not track how many schools require breath tests after a drinking offense. But Ervin Cox, assistant dean of students at the University of Wisconsin, said he believes his school and Minnesota are the only ones with such a policy.
Wisconsin officials said the "Show and Blow" program has improved the atmosphere at Camp Randall Stadium, which is also dry.
"The students who are coming sober are having a better time," Cox said. A total of 135 Wisconsin students ran afoul of the policy last year.
About 1,700 students die in alcohol-related accidents every year, and nearly 600,000 are injured, according to the National Institutes of Health. Student sports fans are much more likely to binge drink than nonfans, said Toben Nelson, a University of Minnesota professor who has researched college drinking for more than a decade.
Universities have tried all sorts of strategies for curbing drunkenness. Some have banned the sale of alcohol at their stadiums and put security guards at gates to make sure fans don't bring in their own. Some, like Minnesota, have corralled tailgaters into parking lots patrolled by police.
Stadiums that sell beer are in the minority, but some of those that do so turn off the taps at certain times during games.