Not One Drop: The Alcohol Ban At Tailgates That Begins At Kickoff

Penn State may be a dry campus, but there are instances where the university permits alcohol consumption. As we all know, students (21+) and alumni drink at their tailgates hours before kickoff during home football weekends. For many, the drinking stops when they leave their vehicles and make their way to Beaver Stadium. Of course, not everyone at the tailgates has a ticket. So they can continue the party, right? Well technically, no.

Ever since the 2006 season, Penn State has prohibited drinking alcohol once the game begins, and the ban lasts until the final whistle. The university took this measure to limit the number of students who went to the hospital for alcohol poisoning, and the ban appears to have come as a last resort.

“We don’t know what to do,” Bill Mahon, Penn State’s spokesman, said in 2006. “The educational programs aren’t working, the warnings aren’t working.”

Penn State copied “was inspired by” a policy that Notre Dame enacted for their football games. Police would enforce the ban by confiscating the alcohol, issuing summary citations, and charging those who refused to leave with trespassing.

The committee that devised the rule was made of representatives from the campus police, Student Affairs, the Athletic Department, and the Alumni Association. It isn’t known if any students were on the panel, but given the dysfunction student government had in the mid-2000s, and since you-know-who ran Student Affairs, their absence shouldn’t come as a surprise. In addition, the announcement of the ban was buried in a press release.

Mark Allen, an assistant supervisor with the Penn State Police, said the ban would be targeted in areas where students and fraternities tailgated. Some of the older alumni, however, were upset because the ban affected them as well. “I think [the ban]’s stupid …the only time I haven’t been here was during Vietnam, and I’ve never seen any problems,” Bob Reichert, ’72 told the Collegian.

“We give $1,800 a year to be here; we’ve earned the right to drink during the game,” Geoff McCollom, ’82 said.

During the first weekend the ban first went into effect, now-chief of Penn State Police Tyrone Parham observed the amount of tailgaters during the game had significantly declined from the past, and he had “no doubt” the ban was responsible.

Penn State isn’t the only school to limit alcohol at its tailgates. Here are policies from the other Big Ten East schools.

Indiana: Don’t bother hanging around if you don’t have a ticket to Memorial Stadium. All tailgaters are expected to have a ticket to the game, and tailgating ends at kickoff.

Maryland: The Terps prohibit tailgaters from drinking alcohol after kickoff, and you can’t chug it waiting in line to enter the stadium. The university also distinguishes between tailgates and parties, but oddly allows tailgate parties. Maryland prohibits beer bongs and beer pong.

Michigan: The Michigan Wolverines have posted no policy on alcohol at tailgates.

Michigan State: Our Land-Grant rival has no policy that bans alcohol after kickoff. Michigan State does, however, prohibit kegs and beer games.

Ohio State: “No person shall have in the person’s possession an opened container of beer or intoxicating liquor in any public place.”

Rutgers: The university will kick anyone out of the parking lots after kickoff. Parking is available only for those attending the game. Rutgers bans tents, canopies, and kegs.

In comparison, Penn State seems pretty lenient — it is not uncommon to pass tailgates playing beer pong, flip cup, or beer bonging from atop an RV. Either way, next time you decide to leave the game early and revisit your tailgate or keep the party going and not enter the game at all, don’t be surprised when the police roll up and have you dump out your drink.

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About the Author

Doug Dooling, Jr.

I am a staff writer for Onward State. I graduated as a Nittany Lion with Honors in 2013. Now, I am back in Happy Valley to earn a degree at the Penn State Law. Outside of politics and government, my interests include college football, soccer, Irish history, and astronomy.

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