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Majority of commenters oppose WVU beer sales

The Associated Press
WVU's beer vendors will sell suds in plastic bottles and plastic cups.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- By a more than two-to-one margin, West Virginia University fans who filed public comments on the proposal to sell beer at athletic events said they oppose the plan.

Opponents said they would stop coming to games, cancel season tickets and even suspend donations to the university.

Many of them said fans already are too rowdy and that WVU officials have failed for years to control drunken hooliganism at games. Selling beer during games would only make matters worse, they said.

WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck pitched the idea to the university's Board of Governors in April.

Luck believes allowing controlled beer sales in the stadium, in concert with eliminating the pass-out policy, would help officials control drinking.

The 30-day public comment period for the proposed plan closed Friday. The Board of Governors posted all 326 comments on its website Monday afternoon.

Toni Boyd said over the past three years "behavior in the stands has deteriorated." She and her family have season tickets in Section 216. She reports that other fans in her vicinity have gone from sneaking airplane bottles of liquor into games to bringing full fifths of liquor.

"Of course, then my family and other fans around us get to endure their profanity, falling all over us drunk, throwing up everywhere, passing out and getting in my 75-year-old mother's face when she is cheering and trying to the enjoy the game, telling her they love her," Boyd said.

Boyd said people in her seating area have complained to university officials, events staff and the State Police, all to no avail.

"Our only saving force has been that the chief of police of Parkersburg sits right behind us and he and his 76-year-old father-in-law have tried to make the drunks stay off of us," Boyd said.

S. Davidson, who did not give his or her full first name, said Luck "doesn't want fans to be drunk or unruly unless it's profitable for the school. Not a good example at all."

Justin Harrison, a three-time graduate of WVU who now has two young children, said he already sees "foul and abusive language, rude and obnoxious individuals, mistreatment of opposing fans and a general lack of civility" at games.

"I think this type of behavior needs to be addressed," he said. "And until it improves, I'm afraid that I will not be able to make the investment of purchasing season tickets."

Donor and season ticket holder J. Scott Tharp, a Fairmont lawyer who graduated from WVU's law school in 1959, said he was dubious of the beer-free "family zone" idea. "I am sure that those of us who contribute financially to the program, and have a seat on the 50 yard line, would be thrilled to be moved to a 'family zone' in the end zone," he wrote.

"This plan is akin to putting gasoline in the fire hoses," wrote Howard Epperly. "I love WV and especially football, however our fans are the most obnoxious and simply do not handle the drinking experience. The best thing that happens at Mountaineer field is that these obnoxious and overly inebriated so-called fans leave at halftime and do not come back because they want to booze more."

Robert Wolfe, who graduated from WVU in 1994, also said it would promote bad behavior.

"While I for one would love to be able to buy a beer at Mountaineer Field or the Coliseum, there is no way in my heart of hearts I can say that this is a good idea," Wolfe said. "Our student population has never shown that they are responsible enough for something like this."

Morgantown resident Rich Goellner said that selling beer at the stadium would move WVU athletic events one step closer to being like non-family friendly European soccer events.

"It's a drunk thug fest," Goellner said. "Quite profitable, however."

Mark Dean, a 2008 graduate who is in law school, said that as a member of the Marching Band and Pep Band, he had seen better behavior at other Big East schools that already allow beer sales. He thinks selling beer at Mountaineer games will reduce pre-game binge drinking.

"Many of our peer institutions already allow beer sales in their stadiums and in all my travels I never experienced an alcohol-related problem any greater than at Mountaineer Field," he said. "Indeed, the fan bases at a few of these stadiums could sometimes seem more 'tame' than the average Mountaineer game crowd."

"I am in favor of beer sales at the football games," said Class of '85 alum Debbie Greskevitch. "Could we do as Syracuse does and cut it off in the third quarter?"

Matt Freeman agreed with Oliver Luck's reasoning that controlled sales could lead to more responsible fan behavior.

"Alcohol sales in the stadium would prevent the irresponsible 'loading up' of many fans BEFORE they get in the stadium because it would be made responsibly available to them IN the stadium," Freeman said.

Season ticket holder Eric Lewis agreed.

"Responsible adults should be allowed to enjoy a beer at a WVU football game," Lewis said. "I am a firm believer that the vast majority can and will act responsibly."

WVU graduate and Morgantown resident Carol Shaub said her older sister Brenda Garden was killed Oct. 11, 2000 by a drunk driver on her way to work.

"Please don't let the university to be an accomplice to this kind of tragedy," she said.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at jared.hunt@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148.

 


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