When will beer be sold at Michigan Stadium (photo: Andrew Horne, wikimedia commons).

Fans could eventually pressure Michigan into football game beer sales

$4,550,000. That’s the annual revenue Michigan is passing up by not selling beer at home football games.

Since the Michigan athletic department is so flushed with cash,  AD Dave Brandon doesn’t need it.

After Brandon arrived at Michigan, the school completed the twin towers, so businessmen and the financially blessed, can spend

at least $55,000  to watch the games in luxury.

Michigan’s “bleacher” seats have not only increased in cost, they require an expensive  “seat license” to even buy one. Even the student seats cost more.

19SQFEET_span-articleLargeRoss’ $100 million gift helps

Those increases get deposited in the bank just fine.

And what about the $100 million given to the athletic department by philanthropist and Michigan alum Stephen M. Ross.

To put icing on the cake, television revenues will rise from 27 million this fall to 44.5 million in 2016.

Michigan is normally at or near the top of football revenue. In 2010-11, football showed a profit of $46.8 million, in 2011-12 the figure was $61 million and in 2012-13 it was $59 million.

Tree’s been hit more than once

 Even so, just think what that $4.55 million could do.  If nothing else, there’s a tree on No. 12 at the University Golf Course that should come down.

Brandon, who’s obviously concerned with the university’s image, safety and legal hassles is dead against selling beer in the Big House.

“I just don’t think we need to do that,” Brandon said.

“You’ve got to set up places to vendor this stuff and you’ve got to make sure you’re selling it to the right people, not the wrong people, and then you’ve got to deal with all the ramifications of alcohol being served in an area where you’ve got a lot of young people and a lot of underage people,” he said.

Oct 5, 2013; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Michigan Wolverines athletic director Dave Brandon before the game against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon’s job wouldn’t be easier

“Sometimes people lose track of the fact that we have to organize and manage 110,000 to 115,000 people all in one tight space, and get them in there and out of there safely,” he continued. “I don’t think serving alcohol is going to make that job any easier.”

Precedent, however, has already been set.

On New Year’s Day Michigan hosted the NHL’s Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. The contest was a logistical nightmare, but the game played before more than 100,000 hockey fans went off without a hitch. Molson was the sponsor and, 65,000 cups of beer were sold.

Brandon explained the difficulties in his regular blog on mgoblue.com.

On game day — New Year’s morning — the U-M team assembled at 4 a.m. to do its best to keep our parking areas, stadium steps and pedestrian pathways clear of ice and snow. Many of our team salted the aisle ways of the 90 rows of seats in Michigan Stadium. Those team members not only went up and down the hundreds of steps, they had to do it with 20 pounds of equipment strapped to their bodies to efficiently deliver the salt. Most of these men and women worked through the game and then after the event to do their best to improve fan egress as the weather worsened.”

Michigan will get another chance at solving the logistics of selling beer when soccer’s Manchester United  squares off with Real Madrid in the Guinness International Champions Cup August 2.  With Guinness the event sponsor, there’s no getting around selling its product at the game. A crowd of more than 100,000 will view two of the world’s top clubs.

The Minnesota Gophers and West Virginia Mountaineers already sell beer throughout their stadiums and it appears Texas will be next.  Appalachian State  sells beer, but only in “club seating.”

“I’m not sure at the end of the day you would ever do it for financial reasons,” Brandon said. “You do it because you’ve got a lot of pressure from your fans and they expect it and it starts to become more the norm.”

Back in the late 1960’s and early 70’s,  Michigan only averaged about 60,000 fans per game. Security was lax at its best since AD Don Canham was happy when anyone came through the turnstiles.

Boones Farm was the stadium favorite

Students and fans alike brought mini-coolers,  Stroh’s Stay-Cold Paks and just about any type of beer you could imagine. But the real craze was Boone’s Farm Apple Wine or even cheaper knock-offs.

Near the end of the games, the student section passed up the wine bottles, just as they passed up somewhat cooperative coeds.

Stadium personnel, who watched in awe as hundreds, if not thousands of wine bottles were passed up to row 90, then somehow loaded them into dump trucks for a trip to the dump. All this, to the band’s rendition of the Hawaiian War Chant and of course Temptation. Kidding aside, it’s just a matter of time before Brandon and the regents cave. Then fans won’t have to race across Stadium Boulevard chugging their last beer from their golf course tailgate. ♦

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Joel Greer

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