When Lincoln Riley and the Sooners open the 2019 season against Houston, it is expected that beer will be made available to all fans for purchase at Memorial Stadium. 


Tulsa World file

As recently as 10 years ago, very few FBS schools made alcohol available to all fans during home football games.

Today, about 50 schools have chosen to sell beer — or beer and wine, as is the case at the University of Tulsa.

For years, drinks have been purchased by Oklahoma fans in suites or club seats, but alcohol was not an option for the rest of the fans in attendance.

Those are the fans who represent the great majority of a typical Sooners crowd of 86,000, and those are the fans who also will be served.

Texas and West Virginia are among major-college schools that sell beer during football games. Last year, Oklahoma State did it for the first time. OU is on the brink of following suit.

When they convene Friday in Norman, University of Oklahoma regents are expected to approve OU President Jim Gallogly’s recommendation that the university sustain its alcohol-sales operation in other sports and extend it now to include football.

Unless there is a surprise, beer would become an OU concession-stand staple during the 2019 season. Beer would be available to all fans on Sunday, Sept. 1, when the Sooners host Houston for the ABC-televised, prime-time opener at Memorial Stadium.

OU already sells beer at the Lloyd Noble Center (during both women’s and men’s basketball games). Beer is available at Sooners softball and baseball games. The prices at those venues: $8 for a 16-ounce can and $8.50 for a 20-ounce draft.

If the regents say yes on Friday (and every indication points to a yes), it’s safe to presume that the $8 and $8.50 prices would be in place also for football.

OSU officials decided on an $8 price point last season, saying it was consistent with the money other schools were getting for a 16-ounce beer.

If Oklahoma replicates the Oklahoma State menu, these beers could be sold during football games: several Oklahoma craft beers, along with Anheuser-Busch, Coors and Miller products.

At Oklahoma State, there is a limit of two beers per purchase. OU probably would enforce the same limit. Apparently, Cowboys fans drank responsibly. An official OSU reported that during 2018 home football games, there was not a single incident that involved police and a drunk fan.

Alcohol sales do not generate great levels of profit. When OSU made its alcohol move a year ago, deputy athletic director Chad Weiberg explained that “an enhancement of the fan experience” was the primary reason for selling beer.

OSU’s beer operation necessitated the hiring of nearly 100 additional concessions workers.

“Whatever money is left after expenses,” Weiberg said, “we’ll put it right back into the overall fan experience. We’ll continue with improvements.”

When it was announced last year that OU would experiment with beer sales at basketball, softball and baseball games, athletic director Joe Castiglione’s comments also centered on fan accommodations.

“What we’re trying to do is realize the changing interests of the fan base,” Castiglione told the Norman Transcript. “It evolves. It’s constantly evolving.

“We want to be able to appeal to a wide variety of fans who want a variation of an experience.”

Selling a few beers at a college baseball game — it’s a pretty safe exercise.

Selling thousands of beers during a stressful, high-stakes football game — it likely would necessitate the hiring of more security officers to work the stadium’s interior and perimeter.

Oklahoma State’s 2018 sales figures slightly exceeded preseason expectations. During seven home football games, 92,988 beers were sold. The greatest single-game total was 19,888 for the homecoming victory over Texas.

Before expenses, OSU generated $743,904 on beer sales. If the OSU average was 13,284 beers per game, the OU average would be more than 20,000.

The 2019 Sooners have six home games. At a sales total of 20,000 per game, OU by the end of season would have collected about $1 million in beer revenue.

It wasn’t that long ago that OU fans were allowed to leave the stadium at halftime, run to O’Connell’s, chug three beers and sprint back to their seat for the start of the third quarter. That policy was eliminated 13 years ago.

All college programs — even a superpower like OU — are starved for revenue. Interestingly, the Southeastern Conference is the only Power Five league with a conference policy prohibiting general beer sales at football games.

The beer itself won’t make a tremendous impact on the OU budget, but it might be one of the reasons why some fans renew their season tickets. That’s why OU will do it.

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Bill Haisten


Twitter: @billhaisten

Sports Columnist

Bill joined the Tulsa World in 1990. Prior to having become a sports columnist in 2016, he was the only sports writer in Tulsa World history to have covered OU, OSU, the University of Tulsa and Oral Roberts sports on an everyday basis. Phone: 918-581-8397