Opinions Expressed

The 30-day comment period on the proposed policy change that would allow beer sales at WVU athletic events ended on Friday, and on Monday, the University's Board of Governors released the entire contents of the more than 320 comments it received from the public.

A quick count of those comments found about 72 percent of those who went to the effort of e-mailing in their thoughts were against the proposed amendment to BoG Policy 18, a change which would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages -- particularly beer -- at Mountaineer athletic events.

The other 28 percent was largely comprised of those who expressed support for that change, but there were a few others who wrote in with questions about certain aspects of the proposal and others still who offered no firm opinion either way.

There were those who were verbose in their comments, sending e-mails that were several paragraphs long in the hopes of eloquently explaining their positions.

Others, like Mike Webb, were much more concise.

"Greed makes you greedier not smarter!" was the entirety of Webb's message.

"Sounds like three and a half hours of drinking inside the stadium as opposed to twenty minutes of drinking outside the stadium," wrote Paul Wilson.

The honor for most direct, to-the-point e-mail went to Ed Dicken, only the second person to comment on the matter. His subject line was "Beer sales at WVU" and the content of the message was simply "NO!" in large font.

If Dicken spent the least possible amount of time on his comment, Paul S. Dunn, who identified himself as a member of the WVU Class of 1961, was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Dunn, who wrote in opposition to the proposal, literally wrote his response -- by hand -- before mailing it to the BoG.

At least two members of college athletic departments elsewhere around the nation wrote in to voice their support for the proposed policy change, spearheaded by director of athletics Oliver Luck.

The first was from Dr. Milton E. Richards, athletic director at Cal State Stanislaus.

"From experience, I can tell you that when the venue controls beer sales, incidents of alcohol related fan problems decrease," Richards wrote. "Mr. Luck's plan to stop halftime re-admittance to home contests and to establish a controlled beer sales plan is goof policy that the BOG should enthusiastically support."

Matthew Hibbs, a Morgantown native and WVU graduate (class of 2006) who has gone on to work as a graduate assistant in the compliance department at the University of Tennessee, also sent in a vote of support.

"The current system promotes mass consumption prior to a football game in order to ‘make it last' until halftime," Hibbs wrote. "Knowing that the opportunity exists to drink inside the stadium should lead to a more controlled consumption."

The strength of the sentiments from those on both sides of the issue ranged widely.

Many (both for and against beer sales) ended their arguments by hoping for a sort of compromise in the form of the creation of a few beer-free sections inside Milan Puskar Stadium.

Others expressed "mixed feelings."

"On one hand I can see the need for funding the athletic programs at WVU and...financing the department without financial aide [sic] from the university. On the other hand, I fear what might happen with our very passionate and possibly intoxicated fan base," wrote Bruceton Mills native Allan Jones.

Others were strong enough in their upset to threaten to no longer purchase tickets if the policy was changed.

"I have been attending games in Morgantown with my family for about 30 years and I can honestly say it is a nice refuge to get into the stadium where beer is not sold," wrote Wallace F. Suttle, II. "If the sale of beer is approved, I will have to make a decision if the ticket price is worth dealing with the drunks."

The majority of those against the proposal spoke about their desire to help make athletic events as family-friendly as possible, while those in favor echoed Luck's comments about improving the atmosphere at the stadium while generating revenue for the athletic department.

One fan from North Carolina spoke about his own mixed feelings on the proposal and what it would mean as he hoped to make his young grandchildren (granddaughters ages 3 and 5 and a four-month-old grandson) Mountaineer fans.

"I want them all to enjoy sport and become avid fans. I, however, am quite apprehensive if the experience they remember relates to the beer spilled on them, the drunk falling when standing to cheer, the drunk vomiting on them, etc., rather than the beauty of the band, the pageantry of the occasion (such as homecoming) or the actual game," wrote C. Verne Overfield.

Others, perhaps not realizing that the Board of Governors has no power to make decisions concerning the other changes at football games (particularly the ending of the so-called "pass out" practice, which allowed fans to leave games and re-enter the stadium), wrote in with their comments on those issues.

"We spend a lot of money to park close to the stadium and do really enjoy going out at halftime for a food and drink break," wrote John McKenzie, a Class of 1992 alumnus. "I have to say, I'd be upset if this privilege was taken away."

Many recognized the economic factors involved, acknowledging the revenue estimates (Luck said profit estimates range between $800,000 and $1.3 million per year for the department) would be a significant boon for a program that Luck said should have a national championship as its goal.

"Some of our competitors play in 80-100 thousand seat stadiums. West Virginia is already at a major disadvantage when it comes to revenue. An estimate of a million dollars [per year] in alcohol sales could really benefit the school," wrote Vernon Ferrell, who identified himself as a senior industrial engineer at WVU.

The BoG will consider the comments it has received before rendering its decision on the amendment -- a decision that will likely come at its next meeting, to be held June 3 in Charleston.


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