Luck's homework on potential policy made beer sales possible
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Oliver Luck arrived at Friday's Board of Governors meeting not to tout the positives about the proposed plan to sell alcohol at West Virginia University's sporting events, but to attack the weaknesses.
When he left, the amendment to Policy 18 had passed by a 10-5 vote at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center and largely because he was ready to address the criticisms raised by board members.
"I think it's clear Oliver has done his homework and has done a really good job saying what is the best way to do what we can do to change behavior," said outgoing board chairwoman Carolyn Long. "Now we'll begin to work on that. There are bound to be disagreements, just as there was around the board, but I think it's important we had the discussion we had."
In a brief presentation with a handful of slides, Luck went over the idea introduced in April and added detail about how the process will work. The concessionaire will ask every customer for a valid ID and sell no more than two bottles of beer at a time. Luck said WVU will use plastic bottles because it's the "best way to curb beer spillage on patrons and fellow fans."
Luck said many of the people who participated in the public comment period last month were worried about having full cups of beer spill on them.
Beer will only be sold at concession stands and there will be none near the student sections. The sales will be cut off in the third quarter.
The policy change was approved as part of a three-pronged plan to address what Luck called a "coarseness" in the stands and to "increase civility."
WVU ended its re-entry policy and will no longer allow fans to leave the stadium and come back after halftime, except for medical emergencies. WVU will also prohibit smoking in the stadium's common areas and allow it only in designated spots outside the concourse.
The subsequent discussion with the board involved curiosities and opponents and Luck handled them all, with a strong assist from University Police Chief Bob Roberts. Luck asked Roberts, Morgantown Police Chief Ed Preston and the University Police's Manager of Investigative Services and retired Morgantown Police Chief Phil Scott to attend.
At different times they handled questions from the board with Roberts doing most of the work.
"That was a very important part of the presentation," said board member William Wilmoth, who along with James Dailey, Diane Lewis, Ed Robinson and student representative Chris Lewallen, voted against the amendment.
Luck was asked by one board member if WVU could simply end the re-entry practice and not approve the beer sales and still improve behavior. From the beginning of this process, Luck used his conversations with law enforcement and peer institutions to determine that fans leaving the game in the second quarter and returning after a quick binge in the parking lots at halftime were contributing to the frowned-upon behavior.
Roberts interceded and said he was in favor of evolution instead of revolution.
"To me the revolution would be to stop all alcohol use and everything else," he said. "That's going to be a major, major controversy and it's going to be hard to implement it. It makes more sense to me from an evolutionary standpoint to figure out how to control it and to educate people moving forward in that direction."
Luck again admitted there was a financial component involved and said WVU could generate $500,000 in revenue, which is the low end of a range he first said could extend to $1.2 million. Luck said the money would go to good use, though, and there were plans to add to the concession stands and restrooms.
"It gives us an opportunity to upgrade what really is a great home stadium with a great atmosphere," Luck said. "This has always been about what we can do to increase civility, but also increase the great home-field advantage for the Mountaineers."
Luck said only about three dozen of the 120 Football Bowl Subdivision schools sell beer - including seven of the eight Big East football schools (in either a public or private capacity, except Rutgers). Many conferences have bans, though, and Wilmoth raised that point when he asked if the SEC and ACC sell beer.
The SEC has a complete ban on alcohol sales and the ACC has a ban for conference events.
"I think each school is different and each situation has to be taken one at a time, but I think it's fair to say that not everyone is doing this and there's probably a reason for that," Wilmoth said. "But I'm a fan of Oliver Luck and I trust him and I think he did a good job putting together the policy as it is now."
The board moved to have Luck back at the same time next year to review the policy and the effects. If necessary, the policy can be amended again and revert to the previous form. Luck said part of his research was to quiz schools that sell beer about the behavioral effects and said "in all those cases we felt very comfortable that those situations were handled very well with no unintended consequences. All of those schools have continued to sell beer."
Roberts, who has been with the WVU Police for 26 years and the past 21 as the chief, said behavior has been improving for several years and isn't what it once was. He doesn't believe the policy change will turn back the clock.
"I think what we will see is less law enforcement-type responses and first responders, in general," he said. "(Emergency Medical Service) takes a lot of calls. I'd like to say that there will be a dramatic drop in that and, again, that goes back to evolution and educating people. I think over time that will get better."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.